Monday, June 16, 2014

Bringing a Larger-Than-Life Movie Musical to the Stage

Bringing a Larger-Than-Life Movie Musical to the Stage
5 Questions with Craig Williams II
Director, Shrek The Musical

by Alexa Giacomini, Member – Muni Board of Managers

AG: Tell us a little about yourself…
CW: I have performed onstage since I have 4 years old. My mom would bribe me with toys and chocolate to sing at church or for her friends. Since then, I have been tuned onto the community theater scene; I audition and participate in as much as I can.  

Professionally, I started in public accounting in 2006 with Sikich LLP in Springfield, IL. For the past 2 years, I have been the Chief Internal Auditor for the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission.

AG: What's your Muni experience? 
CW: I started performing and volunteering in Muni productions when I was in high school. My first Muni show was My Fair Lady in which I played in the Cockney Quartet. Since then, I have only been absent from “the magic” for 1 year while I was in college. I have been in many different productions, including Oklahoma, Miss Saigon and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.  

While performing, I had a growing interest in the creative process of theatre. In college, I began as an architecture major and designing was still something I enjoyed. So, I joined the staff of The Music Man as the Assistant Director and Stage Manager. Thereafter, I had the bug.  

The following year, I expressed my interest in directing Disney's High School Musical and my hope came true. With a vibrant staff behind me, we had a blast putting together my first Muni show. Since then, I have directed Hairspray, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and Dreamgirls.

Each year, I meet more new and talented individuals.  The people are what make “the Muni magic” happen and I try to surround myself with creative, fun and passionate individuals who aren't afraid of trying new things or having an opinion.

AG: You've produced multiple big ensemble, movie-to-musical shows at the Muni the past few years. What's the biggest challenge and greatest reward in producing this type of show?
CW: First, unlike original stage plays, movie-to-musical shows have a story that many people already know, so accounting for preconceived notions is a big part of the initial, creative process. I try to go through and determine what is iconic to the show, then design a new or modified production around it. On the other hand, because many people know the story and really enjoy it, they come expecting to be entertained and are usually easy to please!  

Also, the shows I have directed have been very popular on Broadway and draw a fun, energetic audience, which energizes the actors and boosts the performance to a new level. 

Lastly, each year, I learn something new, whether it is a better way of doing something or an innovative set design. Trying to surprise or amaze the audience in even the smallest way is a fun way to spice up a show that people might already know.

AG: What special costumes, sets, and/or effects can we expect to see at Shrek The Musical this summer?
CW: Being a fantasy, Shrek The Musical has lots of room for fun and over-the-top designs! At Muni, we have no ceiling, so sets can be large and detailed to draw the audience into the world of ogres, fairytale creatures and dragons.

This year, the stage will become a giant, green swamp. From his swampy home, Shrek, with his extensive prosthetic make-up, will emerge to fight a 30 foot long dragon that breathes smoke, flies around the stage and falls in love with a donkey, whose ears actually move. Also, we can't forget about Pinocchio and his nose that grows right in front of your eyes! Fantasy will become real in Shrek The Musical at The Muni. Our costumer and makeup artists have some work cut out for them, but there is lots of magic coming to the Muni stage.

AG: Why should people come see Shrek The Musical?
CW: Shrek The Musical has heart. It teaches the importance of being different and being proud of who or what you are. Not everyone fits into a cookie cutter world nor should we, and by standing out of the crowd, Shrek is able to lead the way for many others to be who they are and stand up for what they believe.

Just as important, you will enjoy the music. It's fun and contagious. You will toe tap and hum your way through the show and back home at the end of the night. It is the perfect show for a night under the stars at The Muni.