Stage & Dance

For 'Shrek the Musical,' Lexington Children's Theatre pulls out all the props

Dragon, an eight-person puppet led by Sydney Jahnigen, was assembled in part with fans from the 2006 show A Thousand Cranes and costumes from 2003's Merry Christmas, Strega Nona.
Dragon, an eight-person puppet led by Sydney Jahnigen, was assembled in part with fans from the 2006 show A Thousand Cranes and costumes from 2003's Merry Christmas, Strega Nona. Lexington Herald-Leader

It's as if Lexington Children's Theatre has been preparing for its production of Shrek the Musical for years — decades even.

"The Big Bad Wolf?" co-director Jeremy Kisling asks, pulling the character's costume off a rack of outfits. "This is from Cows Don't Fly, and Other Known Facts," a show that has been performed numerous times at LCT, most recently in 2011. The wolf is wearing the dress that was the costume for Grace in the 2011 summer family musical Annie.

The mayor's coat from last summer's show, Seussical, will be on The Mad Hatter in Shrek.

Ogre costumes are from the often-performed Wiley and the Hairy Man.

And the Pinocchio puppet and costume? What children's theater doesn't have a Pinocchio sitting around?

Shrek is a fairly new show, but its fairy tale theme turned out to be a great way for the theater company to look back by pulling out costumes, props and set pieces from productions that had focused on the Three Bears, the Ugly Duckling and other characters.

Considering Shrek launches the theater's 75th season, it's prime time to look back.

"It's a great way to celebrate what we have done in the past and what's to come in the future," says artistic director Vivian Snipes. She has a bit of her own theater history in the show: the Peter Pan costume she wore when she was 12.

"The amazing thing is seeing the size of the person in that costume and thinking I once fit in it," says Snipes, who has been at LCT for 35 years, as has her husband, producing director Larry Snipes.

Kisling says the theater' inventory of costumes was a key to being able to do Shrek, a resource-demanding show with 57 cast members.

"Over half of the costumes in this show come from other shows," Kisling says. "Forty-five of the 77 costumes are from other shows, which really helps.

Some of the costumes are directly borrowed, including Pinocchio. Others are repurposed, such as the Tooth Fairy from Goodnight Moon.

"The script just calls for a fairy, so why not make it the Tooth Fairy?" Kisling says.

Reusing theater design elements is a time-honored tradition on the stage and in film; Kisling acknowledges that the Children's Theatre does it with almost every production. But it isn't something the theater usually advertises or does on such a large scale.

"We were very intentional this time," Kisling says.

The theater is even going to make a game out of it, he says, by putting a quiz in the show program to see how many recycled things audience members spot.

It won't just be the costumes.

Most things in the show are from the past couple of decades, Kisling says, because the theater doesn't have enough storage space to keep items indefinitely. It moved into its Short Street home, with full costume and scene shops, in 1998.

One of Kisling's favorite pieces predates that. It's a scenic drop representing a cave that was made for the 1996 production of The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of the Haunted House.

"I saw it and I just loved it, and I thought it would be great for the dragon's lair," Kisling says.

Dragon, who ends up romancing Shrek's sidekick, Donkey, is herself an amalgamation of several shows.

The mouth and large rolling eyeballs were fashioned specifically for Shrek. The fans that become the scales on the dragon have been used in several productions, chiefly the 2006 show A Thousand Cranes. The outfits that most of the dragon's eight puppeteers wear were used in the 2003 show Merry Christmas, Strega Nona.

Designing the show has been a trip down memory lane for Kisling and no doubt will be the same for LCT diehards, who can have some fun with the quiz.

While watching a Monday rehearsal, Vivian Snipes says Shrek is doing what she wants all of her theater's shows to do.

"I really haven't been noticing all of those elements," he says. "I've just been watching this wonderful story unfold."


'Shrek the Musical'

What: Lexington Children's Theatre's production of the Broadway musical by David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori.

When: 7 p.m. July 19; 2 and 7 p.m. July 20; 2 and 6:30 p.m. July 21

Where: Lexington Children's Theatre, 418 W. Short St.

Tickets: $18 adults, $15 children. Available at the theater box office, (859) 254-4546, Ext. 247, or 1-800-928-4545, or

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