Jessica Dennis admits she was intimidated by Kodi Meyer.
It’s not that the petite Dennis was personally afraid of the towering Meyer, who plays the role of Shrek in Lee’s Summit North High School’s musical production of the famed movie. It was Meyer’s friendship with fellow cast mate Ben Gruenbaum that had Dennis apprehensive.
The music and theater department at North premiered “Shrek the Musical” Nov. 8-10 and will have two more performances beginning at 7 p.m. Nov. 15-16 at North. The musical is based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film about an unseemly ‘ugly’ ogre who shows up with the aid of a talkative donkey to rescue a feisty, yet beautiful princess.
Dennis, a senior, portrays Princess Fiona and Gruenbaum is Donkey.
“I didn’t know Kodi at all prior to this,” Dennis said during dress rehearsal for the musical’s premiere. “I didn’t know ‘Donkey’ played by Ben Gruenbaum at all before the show either, but they’re best friends. It was kind of difficult at first even though I’m older than both of them; it was kind of intimidating because they have such a strong relationship and I didn’t want to feel like I was getting between anything or trying to force my way in.”
“But, I think, eventually as the show progressed we got to know each other through rehearsals and it became easier. We actually all became really good friends, which is really cool.”
Meyer, a junior who said he turned down a part in a musical at North last year because of nerves, was gung-ho about his theatrical debut.
“This is my first play or musical or anything like that,” Meyer said. “It’s a fun experience. I actually auditioned for last year’s (musical) but then I turned down the part because I was nervous about it. Then I watched it and I regretted so bad not doing it. I said I had to do it this year.
“The reason why I’m not incredibly nervous (this year) is in rehearsals I can block out the fact that I’m onstage in front of people. I really don’t think about the fact that people are watching. I just go for it.”
Theater director Shayne Daniel said Meyer has come a long way since his last tryout and that he is pleased that his senior lead actor decided to give theater another shot.
“This is educational theater and my goal is for the kids to have a quality experience,” Daniel said. “Last year, I just don’t think he was ready. He got himself ready. He’s a great talent. I’m thrilled that he came back and decided to give it another shot.”
Meyer’s friendship with Gruenbaum notwithstanding, Dennis said getting to know the lead character on a personal level has helped her character become closer to Meyer’s Shrek. She also let in on a secret on how she deals with the nerves Meyer said got the best of him last school year.
“Honestly, what I do to keep myself from being nervous is I take my glasses off when I go onstage,” Dennis said. “I don’t wear contacts so I can’t see anyone. It’s almost like I’m in my only little personal space. Even though I know there are people (in the crowd), they disappear.”