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Actor BJ Whimpey puts on makeup to transform into Shrek for ‘Shrek! The Musical,’ staged by Ogden Musical Theatre. Performances begin Friday, July 29, 2022.
Photo provided, Ogden Musical Theater
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A flyer for “Shrek! The Musical”, presented by Ogden Musical Theatre. Performances begin Friday, July 29, 2022.
Image provided, Ogden Musical Theater
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The cast rehearse for ‘Shrek! The Musical,’ presented by Ogden Musical Theatre. Performances begin Friday, July 29, 2022.
Photo provided, Ogden Musical Theater
OGDEN – The health of a community is not strictly defined by dollars and cents, things like jobs, business growth and economic development.
The arts are in the mix, and since 2016 the Ogden Musical Theatre, funded in part by the Weber County government and part of the machinery of government, has added a shine to Ogden and the county, according to the boosters.
“It’s work, life and play,” said Kassi Bybee, the producer of the Ogden Musical Theater and managing director of Peery’s Egyptian Theatre, the county’s home for the arts organization, which puts on its big show. summer, “Shrek! The Musical,” starting Friday. That is, people are drawn to a place that has arts and entertainment — the “room” Bybee was talking about — and the musical theater of ‘Ogden contributes to that side of things, the vibrancy that helps make the community a magnet in tandem with basics like jobs.
“People love communities that offer a variety of things, and arts and entertainment is a part of that,” Weber County Commissioner Jim Harvey said. He was on board when county commissioners approved the creation of the Ogden Musical Theatre, which launched in 2017.
Like “Shrek!” performances begin – 15 shows are scheduled in total until August 13 – Bybee, Harvey and others involved in Ogden’s musical theater offered insight into its evolution. It’s not the county’s only theatrical operation, but being housed at Peery’s, it holds a prominent place in the community.
“I would say he’s actually grown and evolved quite a bit,” Bybee said. “I can see him growing more.”
Indeed, from just one performance in its first year in 2017, “Joseph and the Incredible Technicolor Dreamcoat”, Ogden Musical Theater now offers three performances per year. The original summertime musical is still the most elaborate production, but a springtime musical concert and year-end Christmas program have been added to the mix.
“We want to be a serious music company that’s in northern Utah,” Bybee said. The group also organizes a summer theater camp for children, Kids Act Up, which has grown in popularity.
One of the great distinguishing features of Ogden’s musical theater is that it pays its performers – those 16 and over, anyway – to aim for higher caliber productions. It also gives theater students at Weber State, one of the artist pools, a reason to stay over the summer. Many community theaters rely on volunteers.
“The talent that we have in northern Utah to be able to perform at this professional level is exceptional,” Bybee said. “You don’t get that in other areas.”
Maurie Tarbox, artistic director of the Ogden Musical Theatre, said she agreed to the stipulation that the actors be paid, as a sign of respect for the performers and to attract strong talent.
“We love community theater, but we wanted to go beyond that,” she said. “I would say we are at the high end of semi-professional.”
Weber County’s support is important in the ability to pay the performers, who typically come from northern Utah, including Salt Lake City. Tarbox, an instructor with Weber State’s performing arts department, praised the support. “It’s very unusual to have that kind of support from the county,” she said.
Bybee estimates that Ogden Musical Theater operations cost about $200,000 a year, with funding coming from the county, ticket sales, and donations from corporate sponsors and others.
BJ Whimpey plays Shrek in performances starting Friday, Samantha Allen plays Princess Fiona and Dre’lan Evans plays Donkey. “Shrek is a three-dimensional fairy tale that bursts through a two-dimensional setting. The characters are flat on the surface, but the musical quickly reveals that things aren’t always what they seem,” said director Andrew Barratt Lewis in the “Shrek! program notices.”
Tarbox said the dragon was a highlight and noted that it took two hours to make up Whimpey, who plays Shrek. Then there is the music. Audiences “will want to get up and dance in the aisles by the end of the show,” she said.
Tickets can be purchased at ogdenpet.com/events.