WATERLOO — Students are learning about theater and life as they bring “Shrek! The Musical” to the DeKalb High School stage this weekend, said director Jed Freels.

Performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the school auditorium. DeKalb Central elementary students will be admitted free with paying adults.

Some 80 students are participating in the large cast, crew and orchestra, Freels said.

Many student actors are playing two or more roles, “which is really exciting for the kids — no down time,” between scenes, Freels said.

“Shrek” may be populated by fairy-tale characters, but it has a serious side.

“There’s such a big message to it,” Freels said. “The message of ‘Shrek’ is accepting people for who they are, not judging a book by its cover, and learning that acceptance is the key to happiness in the end. ... There’s a lesson for everybody. …What is beauty? … What does it mean to be accepted? … Would you rather live in a utopian society like Duloc, or a society where everybody’s different, and everybody has value?”

In addition to the meaningful plot, students are gaining experience in stagecraft.

“You’ll never see the curtain drawn” for the show’s 19 scene changes, thanks to a 17-piece moving set, Freels said. A revolving centerpiece features Shrek’s home on one side and Lord Farquaad’s castle on the other side.

“That’s been really challenging for our tech crew,” Freels said about the complex scenery.

Above the theater, a student crew will be operating DeKalb’s new, $26,000 sound system, donated by the James Foundation, with 24 digital channels.

“We’ve got the exact same board as a lot of professional theaters,” Freels said. Thanks to training by the vendor, “The kids know more about it than I do,” he added. “The kids picked it up so quickly.”

Four student puppeteers will operate the show’s 16-foot-long dragon, which blinks, talks and moves.

Three student directors and a student choreographer, all freshmen, are controlling the show’s many moving parts.

“It’s fun to see the kids take the lead,” Freels said.

Younger students also are tackling many of the show’s leading roles, starting with sophomore Chandler Hutton, who portrays Shrek. Freels calls it “one of the hardest roles on Broadway. … He has so many lines in so many scenes. He’s involved in almost everything.”

Freshman Gabe Tobierre plays the part of Shrek’s sidekick, Donkey, “He is Eddie Murphy reincarnated at this age level,” Freels said.

Another freshman, Sophia Bell, portrays the major character Pinocchio and takes on two other roles. Fellow ninth-grader Travers Mason is the evil Lord Farquaad.

Upperclassmen shine, too. Senior Ryleigh Moreland is one of four performers who portray leading lady Fiona at different stages in her life. Junior Blair McKown also plays Fiona, sings a show-stopping solo as Humpty Dumpty and gives voice to the dragon. Senior Sarah Fetter is Gingy the Gingerbread Man.

“It is definitely not the easiest show to do, but the kids are having so much fun,” Freels said.

The complete cast list:

Student Director/Executioner/Bishop — Joey Haupert

Student Choreographer/Ugly Duckling/Lioness — Eva Hallman

Shrek — Chandler Hutton

Princess Fiona/Humpty Dumpty — Ryleigh Moreland

Ogre Fiona/Humpty Dumpty/Dragon Voice — Blair McKown

Donkey — Gabe Tobierre

Lord Farquaad — Travers Mason

Pinocchio — Sophia Bell

Gingy/Sugar Plum Fairy — Sarah Fetter

Big Bad Wolf/King Harold — Dylan Burger

Young Fiona/Shoemaker’s Elf — Kelsey Ternet

Teen Fiona/Peter Pan — Dorian Underwood

Pig #1/Thelonious — Jackson Goddis

Pig #2/Papa Ogre — Elijah Edwards

Pig #3/Captain/Knight 4 — Shane Williams

Speaking Guard/Woody The Cowboy — Todd Beran

Wicked Witch — Lyndsi Read

Mad Hatter — Austyn Marquardt

Fairy Godmother/The Spoon — Paige Lower

Mama Ogre/Mama Bear/The Moon — Megan Kruse

Papa Bear — Dante Tkacz

Baby Bear — Ava Harris

Blind Mice #1/Queen Lillian — Lindy Kennedy

Blind Mice #2/Snow White — Lauren Woodcox

Blind Mice #3/Pocahontas/Puss In Boots — Zaira Finderson

Young Shrek — Justin Ternet

White Rabbit — Emily Webb

Goldilocks — Adrianna Clark

Mother Goose/The Cow — Samantha Mick

Rapunzel/The Dish — Nahla Sky Namaste

Robin Hood — Elizabeth Moss

Mother Hubbard — Ayla Craig

Captain Hook — Ansyn Bowers

Pied Piper — Ellie Hancher

Grumpy Dwarf — Grace Marley

Dragon Master/Jesse The Cowgirl — Arianna Toselli

Belle — Elizabeth Leonard

Tooth Fairy — Abigail Sunday

Santa’s Elf — Angelina Nash

Rats — Eva Hallman, Kelsey Ternet, Sarah Fetter, Dorian Underwood, Ava Harris, Sophia Bell, Ava Harris, Lindy Kennedy

Knights — Jackson Gaddis, Shane Williams, Todd Beran, Dylan Burger, Ansyn Bowers, Austin Marquardt.

Dulocian Dancers — Eva Hallman, Sophia Bell, Dorian Underwood, Kelsey Ternet, Emily Webb, Arianna Toselli, Lauren Woodcox, Zaira Finderson, Paige Lower, Ellie Hancher, Sarah Fetter, Lindy Kennedy, Nahla Sky Namaste, Elizabeth Leonard

Happy Villagers — Eva Hallman, Dylan Burger, Sarah Fetter, Jackson Gaddis, Blair McKown, Todd Beran, Sophia Bell, Dorian Underwood, Kelsey Ternet, Emily Webb, Arianna Toselli, Lauren Woodcox, Zaira Finderson, Paige Lower, Ellie Hancher, Lindy Kennedy, Nahla Sky Namaste, Elizabeth Leonard, Shane Williams, Anysn Bowers, Abigail Sunday, Austin Marquardt, Angelina Nash, Lyndsi Read, Ava Harris

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