Going Green

Sometimes a musical is so good that it brings you to your knees.

In the case of Merritt David Janes, who plays the small-statured Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical, being brought to his knees was part of the job description.

"I kneel in this contraption that makes me look like I'm 3 feet tall," said Janes. "Walking around and making that look convincing took a lot of work for the choreography."

Broadway in Tucson is bringing Lord Farquaad, Shrek, Princess Fiona and all of the favorites from the green ogre's fairy-tale world to Tucson, from Tuesday, Oct. 18, through Sunday, Oct. 23.

Though it can get tiring, knee-walking isn't so bad—with a special apparatus and choreography training, he said.

This version of Shrek is unlike anything you've seen before, promised Janes, who has been touring the country for four years in Broadway productions like The Wedding Singer, Beauty and the Beast and Sweeney Todd.

Shrek the Musical opened on Broadway in December 2008. This new cross-country U.S. tour will be just two months old when it comes to Tucson, Janes said.

"It's a really fresh version of the show. It's probably the best version of the show that's been done to date, including the production in New York," Janes said.

What makes it special? Well, there's an amazing dragon this time, Janes said, as well as some new choreography that includes a Lord Farquaad workout number complete with tiny dumbbells.

Drenched in comedy and filled with enchanting dance numbers, Shrek the Musical has something to offer for everyone, Janes said, from people who have seen the movie to people who have never seen a musical before.

"They bring you into the world a different way," Janes said. "In the movie, it's through animation. In the show, you have real people singing and dancing."

The musical follows the same basic story, about the ogre's effort to reclaim his swamp from mystical creatures ousted by the disgruntled ruler, Lord Farquaad. But the musical involves audiences much more thanks to the comedy, Janes said.

"You really experience all the funny moments in the show a lot more. That being said, I think we've all been inspired by how funny Mike Myers is," Janes said about the actor who voiced Shrek in the movies.

The theater brings some special challenges and uniqueness to the animated classic, Janes said. "Through theatrical tools, we can't zoom in on an animated face. We don't practice drawing our performance for months before we let anybody see it. We perform it every night."

That schedule also keeps the show fresh, said Janes, whose various tours have taken him to 44 states. He said he imagines the Shrek tour will last for a year or longer, depending on how many cities book the show.

When you tour, "you get to see all the different little cultural pockets of the country," Janes said. "When you get there, you get to go to the theater, which is the cultural center of the place. Every place has its own little unique personality, which is what keeps it fresh for me. It's always different."

Janes came to Tucson with the Beauty and the Beast tour.

"I'm looking forward to coming back," Janes said. "I always look forward to the individual personality of the audience."

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