Cathy B. Koplen Rylee Willsey, 8, of Otego, talks to Princess Fiona, played by Sarah Lynn Serafin, on Saturday at Applebee's in Oneonta. Serafin and others from the cast of 'Shrek: The Musical' hosted a meet-and-greet breakfast to benefit Orpheus Theatre.

Local children flocked to Applebee’s in Oneonta on Saturday to have breakfast with an ogre, a princess and other characters from the Kingdom of Far Away. 

Shrek, Princess Fiona and other characters from Orpheus Theatre’s upcoming performance of “Shrek: The Musical” met fans and families at the restaurant in Southside Mall during a benefit for the theater. 

“We have had a great time so far,” said Tom Pondolfino, who was costumed and made-up in green face paint as the title character. “Some of the kids have come in costume, and I have been asked a few times to sign autographs.”

Cast and crew members joined members of the Orpheus board to serve and seat guests during a pancake breakfast. And while some children may have been star-struck to see their favorite characters in person, others there were already on a first-name basis with the stars.  

“I play a dwarf, and I am in the children’s ensemble,” said Megan Hughes, 11, who was at the Applebee’s fundraiser Saturday with several of her friends.

Joey Bertram, 10, was with Hughes at the pancake breakfast Saturday. She too is part of the children’s ensemble.

“I really like the dance,” Bertram said. “It is a lot of fun.”

Stephanie Rudloff, 10, was with the same group of friends who ate breakfast at Applebee’s Saturday.

“We get to sing, ‘It’s a Big, Bright, Beautiful World,’” Rudloff said. “It is a great song. It is so much fun to be a part of this.”

Joining Pondolfino and the children were Fiona, played by Sarah Lynn Serafin; Donkey, played by Matt Jahnke; and Lord Farquaad, played by Casey Thomas.

“I like Princess Fiona,” said Rylee Willsey, 8, of Otego, who waiting in line Saturday to have her picture taken with the red-haired royal. 

Amanda Brandas, choreographer for the show, brought her two sons, Elijah Brandas, 9, and Alex Brandas, 5, to the pancake breakfast.

“They have been a part of theater productions for a while now,” Brandas said of her sons. “I guess (it) is probably old hat to them now.”

The meet-the-characters breakfast was the brainchild of Jill Reed, a member of the theater’s board of directors. 

“I guess I came up with the idea,” Reed recalled. “It just seemed to be a good thing to do to get kids out and get people excited about the production.”

Applebee’s offered to give the Orpheus Theatre part of the proceeds of the breakfast sales. The restaurant chain hosts fundraiser breakfasts for sports teams, community organizations and other not-for-profit groups. 

“It is a good fundraiser for us and it also gets people interested,” director Benjamin Burke explained. “I hope that some of the people who came out to the breakfast will be excited about going to see Shrek next weekend.”

The fundraiser was a success, said Orpheus board President Kathy Tobiassen.

“We were very pleased with how our fundraiser went,” Tobiassen said Sunday. “We didn’t have a good sense for how many people we would have ... we pre-sold about 80 tickets, and the rest were walk-ins. We had 152 guests, and made a bit over $1,200.”

Besides making money to support the theater company, Tobiassen said the event was a lot of fun. 

“The event went as well as we imagined it would, a wonderful, happy crowd, enjoying their interactions with Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and Lord Farquaad, as well as their delicious pancakes,” Tobiassen noted. “We had cast members from ‘Shrek’ working the breakfast, with the wonderful help from the Applebee’s staff. Everyone had a lot of fun, and we hope to do a similar event for an appropriate show next season.”

“Shrek: The Musical” is based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks feature-length cartoon starring Mike Meyers and Eddie Murphy. The story follows the antics of Shrek the ogre, as he finds himself embroiled in the schemes of Lord Farquaad and reluctantly helps Princess Fiona find true love’s kiss.

Performances will be Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Goodrich Theatre at State University College at Oneonta. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students. Visit or call 432-9392 for more information and to purchase tickets.




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