Children’s Music Workshop Presents ‘Shrek The Musical’

Published 11:40 am Friday, November 22, 2013

Over 80 children from all over southwest Michigan will perform 'Shrek: The Musical' beginning Nov. 22. Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

Over 80 children from all over southwest Michigan will perform ‘Shrek: The Musical’ beginning Nov. 22. Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

A fire-breathing, 20-foot-long pink dragon will be taking up residence in Lakeshore High School.

What’s going on? On Nov. 22, Children’s Musical Workshop (CMW) will be transforming the stage into a bookshelf full of fairy tales, and well-known characters will come alive, popping out of the books to present “Shrek The Musical.”

Along with the 81 cast members, ranging in age from six to 18 years old, about 100 volunteers and several very dedicated theater professionals, have been working hard for 12 weeks to ready this “fairy tale within a fairy tale” for the stage. A story now familiar to most, “Shrek” recounts the tale of an grumpy ogre who turns out to be a hero in the end.

Hollywood special-effects artist John Lovell will be creating a prosthetic that will make Shrek look just as he did on Broadway.

In this story, “It’s not what’s on the outside; it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” said Susan Matheny, director of the production.

In some respects, that seems to be a good description not only of the show, but also of the theater company that’s putting on the show.

“Audience members can expect to see the community of youth…perform to a level that’s beyond children’s theater. Even though we are Children’s Music Workshop, the productions that these children put on are amazing. Everybody’s always impressed. It’s a great teaching moment for them and us,” said David Neidlinger, Assistant Director, President of the CMW and father of two cast members.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s kids’ theater, ugh.’ But, we’re not kids’ theater. We’re theater with kids doing it, but we’re grown-up theater,” Matheny said. “We have thousands of people come to our shows, people who don’t have kids, because they’re just good shows. It takes a lot of people, and we love doing it.”

Children’s Music Work-shop, a non-profit organization, has been providing youth with the opportunity to do “grown-up theater” for 12 years now.

Partially supported by grants from the Frederick S. Upton Foundation and The Berrien Community Foundation among others, their support also comes from ticket sales and from the fees that families pay in order to participate. However, parents shouldn’t hesitate to get their children involved in upcoming shows because of a lack of money.

“Children’s Music Workshop also has scholarships available to any family who needs it because we don’t want money to ever be the reason that kids don’t do it…. We’re really close to having given away $100,000 in scholarships over the course of the program,” Matheny said.

Information is available at for parents who would like their kids to share in this great experience. Auditions for CMW’s next show, “The Music Man Junior,” will be taking place in January.

And, for those who would like to support a community-based organization while being thoroughly entertained, CMW will be offering three performances of “Shrek”: at 7 p.m., Nov. 22 and 23, and a 4 p.m. matinee on Nov. 24.

Tickets can be ordered by phone at (269) 422-2930 or purchased at the door. They are $10 for adults and $6 for seniors/students, and discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.

Just like Shrek himself, who has a hidden heart of gold, there is more to CMW than meets the eye. It’s not just about months of rehearsals, building elaborate sets, Hollywood-quality special effects, lots of beautiful costumes, and carefully learned songs and dances.

“It’s not about the theater being awesome, even though it is awesome,” Matheny said. “It’s about teaching kids how to be decent human beings and leaders, and we do it by teaching them how to do good theater. We make an expectation to these older kids to mentor the little kids.”