Studio stages a Shrek rally

A decade after winning an Oscar for the animated film “Shrek,” Glendale’s DreamWorks Animation is preparing to bring the heroic green ogre to the Los Angeles stage.

On Monday, DreamWorks Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, key members of the crew and the actor who will play Shrek on stage offered a behind-the-scenes look at “Shrek: The Musical,” which comes to Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre for a three-week run starting July 12.

“Welcome to the house that ‘Shrek’ built,” Katzenberg told journalists gathered at a screening room on the studio’s Flower Street campus. “There is no more defining moment, story or character for us than Shrek.”

The show, which played on Broadway for 13 months and will open in London next month, is one of the ways DreamWorks looks to make the most of its popular film characters and stories, even if the financial results have been mixed.

In April, DreamWorks Chief Operating Officer Lew Coleman said, “Shrek: The Musical” generated roughly $5.5 million in revenue in the first quarter of the year. In the last quarter of 2010, the show generated about $9.5 million, but posted an operating loss of $10 million, including an $8-million “impairment charge” — or lowered assessment of its market value.

Nonetheless, next year the company plans to launch arena shows based on “Kung Fu Panda” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” and Katzenberg has said he is committed to taking DreamWorks characters beyond the screen and home-video markets.

“I think we have had some great successes in repurposing our [intellectual property], and we are continuing to aggressively do that,” Katzenberg told investors in February.

On Monday, DreamWorks Chief Creative Officer Bill Damaschke explained the complexities of translating a computer-generated imagery film to the stage. It required an original score, an adaptation of the screenplay, a nearly 40-foot-long dragon that can be hauled from city to city and an understanding of what makes live theater work.

“The language of film is the close-up,” Damaschke said. “The language of the musical is the song.”

Erik Petersen, who will play Shrek in the Southern California performances, sang one of the show’s original tunes, “Who I Be?” capturing the character’s humor with lyrics about “living a life of daring while smelling like a herring.”

Petersen wore a suit and tie Monday, a luxury he won’t have on stage. As Shrek, he wears a 45-pound green suit made of foam latex and a prosthetic nose, cheeks, chin and forehead.

Guillaume Aretos, a production designer who worked on the first three “Shrek” movies, said getting colors, costumes and choreography just right in a CGI-animated film is difficult, but is in some ways more so for the stage show.

“The challenge in theater is that you have humans in costumes,” he said. “That is way tougher because they have to be alive at the end of the show.”

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