The curtain rose Thursday on a one-of-a-kind musical in Mesa.

All 35 actors and actresses in Red Mountain High School's "Shrek, the Musical, Jr." are young people with special needs.

Many have never had the opportunity to shine on stage.

"I just kept going over the script until it clicked in my head," Lucas Sheetz, who plays Shrek, said during a recent rehearsal.

It only took him a week or so to learn the whole show.

"It was difficult, but my provider was constantly pushing me and it became easy," he said.

"I've never done anything like this before, but singing gained more of my confidence and I like that," said Karelle Reidhoefer, who plays Princess Fiona.

Red Mountain High School Theater director Matt Erickson has directed three musicals featuring special needs students.

His high school students just finished "Mary Poppins," and many of them are volunteering to help the cast of "Shrek."

"Having a son with autism, I've seen it. It breaks my heart that many of them have never had this kind of opportunity. They want the chance to be in front of an audience to shine," Erickson said.

"I'm ready, focused and prepared," said Marie Lucas, who plays Pinocchio.

Her father, Paul Lucas, along with many parents, has attended all rehearsals.

"This is something she loves to do. It's a blessing for her to have this opportunity," he said.

"Shrek" premieres Thursday, June 14 and runs through the 16.

"They're going to be proud of me and what I did," said Brian Daniels, the actor who plays Donkey in the show.

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