Thesps Chester Gregory and Kecia Lewis-Evans have departed “Shrek The Musical,” with Daniel Breaker (“Passing Strange”) stepping in for Gregory.
Cast changes, including the addition of two ensemble players, come between the Rialto-bound musical’s tryout run, which ended Sept. 21 at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater, and the start of Gotham rehearsals Oct. 6.
Both creatives and some critics had reservations about Gregory’s performance as Donkey, the sidekick role voiced by Eddie Murphy in the 2001 DreamWorks Animation pic. Going into the Seattle run, set and costume designer Tim Hatley was unhappy with the Donkey outfit and was already making plans for redesigns.
Meanwhile, Lewis-Evans has ankled because her part, Dragon, is fundamentally changing.
Creatives had originally imagined Dragon embodied by nine actresses simultaneously, with Lewis-Evans serving as lead vocalist. On stage, though, it became clear the idea didn’t work. Now the role will be voiced entirely by chorus members, so Lewis-Evans has decided to bow out of the show rather than step down to the chorus.
Shifts to the character’s puppet design, which in Seattle focused on a giant dragon head operated by a puppeteer, also are anticipated.
Such changes continue the retooling of “Shrek” that began during the Seattle run when helmer-choreographer Rob Ashford (choreographer of “Curtains” and “Cry-Baby”) came aboard as an unbilled consultant to the creative team.
Tuner, the first legit outing for DreamWorks Animation division DreamWorks Theatricals, begins previews Nov. 8 in New York ahead of a Dec. 14 opening at the Broadway Theater.
Breaker, who earlier this year garnered a Tony nom for his perf in “Passing Strange,” joins a cast toplined by Brian d’Arcy James, Sutton Foster and Christopher Sieber. Jason Moore (“Avenue Q”) directs the tuner, with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole”) and music by Jeanine Tesori (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”).
“Shrek” is produced by DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Prods.