'Shrek the Musical' opens Nov. 3 at Detroit Lakes Middle School

High school musical promises lots of light-hearted fun, along with new faces both in front of and behind the curtain

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The cast of "Shrek the Musical" performs an ensemble musical number during an Oct. 20, 2022 rehearsal at Detroit Lakes Middle School's Simson Auditorium. The musical opens at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.
Contributed / Detroit Lakes Public Schools

DETROIT LAKES — There's a new directing team behind the scenes of the annual Detroit Lakes High School fall musical, but fans of the professional-grade productions created by now-retired musical director, Kathy Larson, should rest assured that they won't see a dip in quality with the new regime.

"This is my sixth show I've directed," says Nathan Thelen, the music director and producer for "Shrek the Musical," which opens next Thursday, Nov. 3 at Detroit Lakes Middle School's George Simson Auditorium.

Thelen, who took over for Larson as DLHS's choral music director this fall, has six years of experience in directing high school, middle school and community choirs, as well as directing musicals, in both the Staples-Motley and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton school districts. (He spent four years with the former, and two with the latter.)

He says he has "similar standards of excellence" as Larson's, and expects the same level of dedication from his cast and crew that she did in helming 28 past high school musical productions for the district. "I feel pretty confident in what I'm doing," he added.

"She's been very supportive," says Thelen of Larson, while adding that the former director has taken a hands-off approach with regard to this year's show. Some of the behind-the-scenes assistants may be familiar, such as light designer Mark Everson, set and sound designer JD Hendrickson (with assistance on set design from Tom Trowbridge), and props director Nerissa Hendrickson, while others are brand new, such as artistic director Megan Hovinin and choreographers Mark Quamme and Tracy Aronson.


Costumes for this year's show have been rented from Trollwood, with Alley Cook doing the costume design work to make sure everything fits and looks right. "She's been amazing," Thelen said of Cook, adding that everyone has been giving their all to the production.

"They've really risen to the occasion," he said. "Everything's been going really well."

Thelen's choice of show was a bit less traditional than past DLHS productions, he readily admits. "Coming in new, I wanted to have a fun show, where we could feature as many kids as possible, and it's (Shrek) a big ensemble show," he said, adding that there are 46 students in the cast, all of them coming from grades 7-10. He also works with a backstage crew of about 15-20 people on a given day.

The cast members are pretty enthused about Thelen's choice.

Shrek Rehearsal.JPG
Matthew Morrison, left, as Shrek and Ethan Hendrickson as Donkey in a scene from "Shrek, the Musical," during rehearsals on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. The Detroit Lakes High School fall musical opens this Thursday, Nov. 3 at George Simson Auditorium, Detroit Lakes Middle School. Tickets are available at Central Market in advance, or at the door for $10 each.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"It's very fun, very uptempo ... I just love the energy of it," says Annie Houglum, who plays Fiona, the princess who falls for an ogre named Shrek. "It's been a pleasure."

"This show's got a very cartoon-like energy," said Ethan Hendrickson, who plays Donkey. "It's full of jokes and puns, and all the silly stuff ... it's about an ogre and a talking donkey. There are tap-dancing rats, and dishes and spoons running away. It's a very fun show to be a part of."

"The songs are great," gushed Neil Trowbridge, who plays Pinocchio. "It's pretty fun (to be a part of this show)."

"It's the highlight of the school year for me," added Andrew Nunn, who plays Lord Farquadd. "There's a bunch of people getting together to put on something amazing ... I'm going to miss this when I graduate. Everyone is so cool and fun to work with. They all have such unique spins on their characters."


Matthew Morrison, who plays Shrek, describes him as "a very stoic and hulking character. Most of his expression is in his face and the way he moves his body."

As the play progresses, however, Shrek begins to show a little more of his softer side. "He smiles a little more," Morrison said, adding that one of the challenges presented by his character was knowing when to let more of Shrek's emotions show.

"The hardest part, though, was talking for long periods of time in a Scottish accent," he added. "It's a fun, but difficult thing to do with the voice."

Houglum, too, says she relates to the complexities of her character. "Fiona wants to be the pretty princess that gets rescued, but deep down she knows she's just not like the other princesses. She's very strong and outgoing, and she knows what she wants, even if it's not what the storybooks say (she should want)."

Donkey, meanwhile, "feels very chaotic" in his actions, says Hendrickson. "He's kind of jumping all over the place, bouncing off the walls. He has so much energy — like he's on a sugar high all of the time."

Contrast that to Pinocchio, who is "very self sufficient," says Trowbridge. "He always believes he has the answers and knows what to do."

While Farquadd plays the role of villain in the show, he doesn't really see himself that way, says Nunn. "He just wants everything to be perfect, and the fairytale creatures are just trash to him. They're poisoning his perfect kingdom."

Hendrickson, who is a veteran of past Detroit Lakes musicals, both at the high school, and via the Historic Holmes Theatre, says that this year's production has a lot of new faces. "It's very exciting, seeing all these kids coming in ... they bring a whole new energy that's kind of revitalized us older kids, in a way. It's been a joy to see all these new, fresh faces entering the (theater) program."


Thelen agreed, adding, "We have a lot of cast members in 7th through 10th grade, with very few juniors and seniors. So it's a young cast, but they're super excited to be here. They have lots of energy, which has been good in a lot of ways."

Thelen added that those planning to attend should expect a plot that's very similar to the animated movie that inspired it, "but with singing and dancing added."

If you go

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"Shrek, the Musical" will be presented by Detroit Lakes Public Schools in five performances, on Nov. 3, 5, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 6 at 3 p.m. All performances will take place at Detroit Lakes Middlel School's George Simson Auditorium.
Contributed / Detroit Lakes Public Schools

What: Detroit Lakes Public Schools Presents "Shrek, the Musical"
When: Nov. 3, 5, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 6 at 3 p.m.
Where: George Simson Auditorium, Detroit Lakes Middle School
Who: A cast of 46 Detroit Lakes students in grades 7-12, plus a crew of 15-20 adult staff, volunteers and students
How: Tickets can be purchased in advance at Central Market or at the door before the show.

Meet the cast of 'Shrek'

Shrek: Matthew Morrison
Donkey: Ethan Hendrickson
Fiona: Annie Houglum
Lord Farquaad: Andrew Nunn
Pinocchio: Neil Trowbridge
Dragon: Jenna Allen-Deremer
Teen Fiona: Audriana Flugel
Young Fiona: Brooklyn Watson
Young Shrek: Cole Rotter
Fairy Godmother: Emma Mitchell
Sugar Plum Fairy: Addison Lowell
Wicked Witch: Anika Erickson
Ugly Duckling: Brenna Dahlen
Big Bad Wolf: Jude Houglum
King Harold: Aiden Holt
Peter Pan: Kaylee Sternitzky
Thelonius: Cole Rotter
Captain of the Guard: Abe Perry
Papa Ogre: Kameron Wilkins
Mama Ogre: Abe Perry
Papa Bear: Kameron Wilkins
Mama Bear: Isabelle Hansen
Elf: Austin Holt
Blue Bird: Brooklyn Watson
Duloc Greeter: Brielle Solberg
Three Blind Mice: Anika Erickson, Addison Lowell and Emma Mitchell
Three Little Pigs: Aiden Holt, Gavin Krause-Opitz and Derek Wagoner
Dragonettes: Audriana Flugel, Isabelle Hansen
Ensemble: Addie Clark, Anna Moors, Anna Yost, Ava Klemm, Ben Hansen, Dayton Talbert, Derek Wagoner, Elise Leff, Faith Sandoval, Gabriel Vareberg, Jak Wasche, Jake Erickson, Kristyn Thunstrom, Leah Flugel, Lucas Lundberg, Lucian Hesebeck, Molly Allen, Naomi Lotvola, Noelle Trowbridge, Odelia Perry, Peyton Lorentz, Rachael Wagoner and Taylyn Bjornson

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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