In the movie that introduced Shrek to the world, Princess Fiona finds her true home in the place she least expects it.
The same might be said for Chris Cathcart, production manager for the Welk Theatre in Branson. He came to the southwestern Missouri community to spend six months helping open the theater, he explains, then adds the punchline: That was 25 years ago.
‘Shrek: The Musical’
WHEN — Shows at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. & 7 p.m. selected days, starting June 8
WHERE — The theater at Welk Resorts in Branson
COST — $35 and up
INFO — 800-505-9355 or visit ShrekBranson.com
"I just never left," he says. "I love the Ozarks. It's a much quieter life than it was in Los Angeles, much more beautiful -- and a great place to raise your family."
This year, for the first time, Cathcart is producing the musical that will fill the Welk Theatre stage this summer -- "Shrek." The director is on loan from Missouri State University in Springfield; the musical director is a Branson veteran, as is the choreographer; the production crew is local; and the cast has been assembled from as far away as Chicago and New York City. Rehearsals started this week, and the show opens June 8.
Although this is Cathcart's first venture with musical theater of this magnitude, he's got credentials that go beyond all the variety shows he's put together in Branson. He was producing theater in Los Angeles before the move to Missouri, he explains, then finally casually mentions that he grew up around one of the most popular musical quartets of the 1950s and '60s: The Lennon Sisters. He's Peggy's son.
"The crazy thing is, I never understood how impactful the Lennon Sisters were until we opened up this theater," he muses. "We didn't spend a lot of time in the Midwest when I was growing up. When all of the Midwestern people came to this theater, it was eye opening. I had always respected my mom and my aunts for what they did -- but I didn't realize how much they meant to people."
Most of the time, Cathcart explains, his mom was just mom. "Her first priority was the family," he says. "In a normal school year, there were maybe three dozen times she didn't pick me up from school."
Instead of touring, he explains, the Lennon Sisters took on longer engagements in tourist meccas like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and the kids always went along. Cathcart remembers spending weeks at Caesar's Palace and meeting stars like Sammy Davis Jr. and Bob Hope, but he still calls his childhood "pretty normal." "I did always understand there were things I got to do and places I got to go and people I got to meet that not everyone did," he says. "And I was always super-appreciative of that."
Deciding to devote the summer to musical theater was a big decision for the Welk Theatre, Cathcart admits, one based on the new accessibility generated by live television productions like "Jesus Christ Superstar" and years of national tours.
"Musical theater used to kind of be something you went to watch your kids and grandkids do in high school," he says. "And Branson wasn't particularly receptive to it. But that's changed. We proved that when we brought in 'Million Dollar Quartet' back in 2015.
"Plus, summer is all about families, and we thought something like 'Shrek' would appeal to all ages.
"We had so many talented people audition," Cathcart adds enthusiastically. "We probably had five or six Shreks and eight or nine Fionas. And we tried to keep them all in the cast!"
That's why the show has a relatively small troupe of 25, he explains. "If we were keeping the best talent, we wanted to give them work to do. So we doubled up the roles so our dancers could dance, not just be stuck in a wolf costume.
"For me, I always feel like the foundation of each great show is the talent, so for us, that's the first thing we did," Cathcart says. "That'll let you know how successful your production is going to be right off the bat. And this is going to be amazing!"
NAN What's Up on 05/19/2019
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