Rising Council Rock South senior Shane Stoltz is no stranger to the world of theater. Since his freshman year, he’s starred in seven of his high school’s productions, with favorite performances including Ren McCormack in Footloose and Burt in Mary Poppins.
Currently, Stoltz is putting his talents to the test on a much larger stage, appearing as fairy tale misfit Pinocchio in the Playhouse Youth Company’s presentation of Shrek The Musical, Jr., on stage at New Hope’s Bucks County Playhouse through Aug. 3.
A one-hour, family-friendly adaptation of the Broadway musical and DreamWorks Animation film, Shrek, Jr. is tailored especially for young audiences and features a cast of 17 local performers, ages 14-17, who were selected by audition for this conservatory-style training program.
Over the past few weeks, the teens participated in daily workshops and classes in musical theater performances, acting, dance, voice and improvisation, while also attending guest workshops led by working theater professionals. The mission of the highly-competitive program is to showcase and cultivate promising young artists who are preparing to audition for college theater programs and other professional theater productions throughout the region.
When taking into consideration Stoltz’s lifelong passion for entertaining, his selection for the Playhouse Youth Company doesn’t come as a surprise. According to Stoltz, who has been a natural on stage since the second grade, it was his grandparents who instilled in him a love of theater, introducing him to everything from The Wizard of Oz to High School Musical.
“When I was little, I would always watch musicals and I was always fascinated by them and just totally enthralled,” Stoltz said. “I think those movie-musicals that I watched when I was younger really got me interested in it.”
For Stoltz, landing the role of Pinocchio in Shrek, Jr. is a goal that’s been on his bucket list for some time.
“I actually did Shrek in sixth grade and I really wanted to play Pinocchio, but it didn’t happen. I was a different part. But then I was really excited when I found out I was going to be Pinocchio in this one because it’s such a fun role,” Stoltz said. “I get to sing these two fun songs with all the other fairy tale creatures.”
In Shrek, Jr., Pinocchio is one of the misfits banished by Lord Farquaad, a tiny terror with big ambitions, to the swamp of Shrek the ogre. When Shrek sets off with a wisecracking donkey to confront Farquaad, he’s handed a task – if he rescues the feisty princess Fiona, his swamp will be righted. The show, which is part romance and part twisted fairy tale, follows Shrek as he leads his new swamp-mates on an adventure to save Fiona and find true acceptance.
In Stoltz’s opinion, seeing the transformation of Pinocchio and his friends is one of the most inspiring components of the musical.
“All the fairy tale creatures are impoverished. They’re kicked out of their home, they’re dumped in this swamp. Pinocchio, you see him learn to stand up for himself throughout the show and accept the fact that he is a puppet and that’s OK, because he’s always trying to prove that he’s a real boy,” Stoltz said. “Going on that journey throughout the show of figuring out that it’s OK to be different and special, that’s the fun part of Pinocchio and it’s a big message of the show, also.”
Shrek, Jr. is directed by Broadway and television actress/director Kate Wetherhead (Off Broadway’s The Other Josh Cohen, BCP’s Ebenezer Scrooge’s Big Playhouse Christmas Show and Company) and choreographed by Patrice Soriero, with music direction by Kyle Duke.
“Directing the Playhouse Youth Company in Cinderella last summer was one of the highlights of my career,” said Wetherhead. “The talent, generosity and infectious joy of the students reminded me why I fell in love with theater in the first place. I could not wait to return to direct Shrek this summer – a show about learning to see and appreciate what makes each of us unique, and about letting the unexpected lead to the most magical adventures.” ••
If you go…
Shrek, Jr. runs through Aug. 3 at Bucks County Playhouse. Performances are on July 31 and Aug. 1, 2 and 3, at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $12 for children ages 4-12, and $17 for adults, plus fees. No children under 4 are permitted in the theater.
For details and to purchase tickets, visit buckscountyplayhouse.org, call 215-862-2121 or visit the box office at 70 S. Main St., New Hope. For groups of 10 or more, contact sales manager Kathy Pappas at email@example.com or 267-740-2090, Ext. 102.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org