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Shrek Jr: A (Late!) Play Review

This was it. Months of preparation were finally going to be showcased. Tremendous effort was going to be put onstage in front of an audience of hundreds of friends, family, faculty, and students. Soon, they were going to be enveloped into a fantasy world of fairy tale creatures, talking animals, and great, green monsters (this is not a joke). The audience burst out in laughter at Donkey’s bubbly, exuberant personality (played by 7th grader Sophie Koch), and got as far back as possible in their seats when Farquaad’s (7th grader Kai Lewis) guards sent the fairy tale creatures into isolation. (Author’s note: there will be exaggeration as you read further on. But all of this did happen! I mean, you wouldn’t know if you weren’t there…) And when Shrek (8th grader Surya Raghav) continued to avoid the perfect moments to express his love for Princess Fiona (7th grader Ella Westfall)? Murmurs of annoyance and “Oh, come on, Shrek!” rippled throughout the crowd. Jeez, that took him long enough! Those of you who didn’t come either Tuesday or Wednesday to watch your very own MS students and teachers perform in this semester’s MS musical, Shrek Jr.? Well, you missed out on an incredible showcase of talent. That’s all I can tell you. (I expect you to hang your head down in disappointment, now. Cue for slow, sad music please, tech team). Friends of non-Shrek-goers? It’s up to you to make them regret it. I’m counting on you.

“The AES Middle School presents… Shrek Jr. the musical!”

The musical begins with young Shrek (Charlotte Weiler) on his 7th birthday, who soon is told by his Ogre parents (7th grader Lily Weiler and 6th grader Nate Davis) that it’s time for him… wait for it… to “go away”. Who are these type of parents?! Crazy, I tell you! Fellow audience members – that was NOT the appropriate time to laugh. How would you feel in Shrek’s shoes? (I expect you to look away in embarrassment. Empathy, people!) Soon, with just a stick and bag in hand, young Shrek sets off into the “big bright beautiful world” – soon to find out that… it really isn’t.

Lord Farquaad’s ‘Captain of the Guards’ (8th grader Beatrice Markwell) comes on stage, leading an innocent group of fairytale creatures (Puss in Boots, Mama Bear, and the Three Little Pigs to name a few) who have been banished from the Kingdom of Duloc, ruled by none other than – you guessed it: extremely ruthless (and unmistakably short) Lord Farquaad. Yet who do these exiled fairytale creatures run into? Shrek – now grown-up, mature, uncharitable, and with some belly fat (I’m being generous there, by the way). They attempt to convince Shrek that he’s the only one tough enough to stand up to the “no good” ruler of Duloc.

Photo Credit: Menaha Malik

Photo Credit: Menaha Malik

Finally, Shrek is convinced. I mean, with the Wicked Witch’s sassiness (played by 8th grader Minsuh Chung) and Pinocchio’s hopelessness (7th grader Nate Keddington), he had to give in at some point. Shrek finally gives in to “go and see this Farquaad guy” so he can get the fairytale creatures off his swamp and send them back to Duloc. Little does he know what awaits him, when Donkey, oh dear Donkey, as bubbly as a vigorously shaken can of soda; runs on stage chased by Farquaad’s guards. But with one look at Shrek’s stature? The guards flee as fast as their black pant legs can carry them. Donkey, amazed with that “narrow escape”, decides to cling on to Shrek and become his mobile “GPS with fur” on the way to Duloc. How lucky! (That was sarcasm, people. Only the audience and crew know why).

Photo Credit: Menaha Malik

Meanwhile, in Duloc, Lord Farquaad comes on stage for torture time with a rolling pin. His victim? The Gingerbread Man (6th grader Lincoln Weiler), who apparently has something to share that Lord Farquaad wants in order to complete his kingdom: a princess. Close to being tortured, Gingy spills the beans: the princess is in a dragon guarded castle surrounded by lava, and her name is Fiona. But out of the blue, Shrek and his mobile GPS (a.k.a Donkey) come on stage, confront Lord Farquaad about using his swamp for banished fairytale creatures, when something clicks in Farquaad’s mind: with the situation the princess is in, why not send a “big, hulky, incredibly expendable” green Ogre instead to fetch the princess in return for the Ogre’s swamp? So, coming to a consensus: Shrek and Donkey go off on their quest.

Photo Credit: Menaha Malik

Simultaneously, Fiona, in her castle, compares herself to Rapunzel. The difference? Rapunzel had a prince rescue her. But soon, that changes (except the handsome prince is secretly an Ogre). Shrek and his companion penetrate a wall guarded by imprisoned Knights and a talented singing Dragon (played by 8th grader Suhani Kaul). And soon – they confront Princess Fiona. However, she has a condition: only if the ‘prince’ takes off his mask will she go along with Shrek to Duloc. So with no other choice, Shrek reveals his actual self.

Photo Credit: Menaha Malik

Photo Credit: Menaha Malik

From a challenging journey made up of loud burps and farts among things (great job on that excellent coordination, Tech Team), Shrek, Donkey, and Princess Fiona (with a secret that soon is revealed) finally reach Duloc. Presenting Princess Fiona to Lord Farquaad, Shrek finally gets what he wanted – his swamp back. Their marriage almost immediately follows. Soon about to be pronounced ‘king and queen’ – Shrek steps in.

Photo Credit: Menaha Malik

Now, you may be wondering (non-Shrek goers, that is); why would Shrek need to step in? He’s got his swamp back! Well, guess what: Ogres have feelings too. (I expect you to look down in embarrassment. How many times have you had to do this? Jeez!) He spills the truth: Farquaad only wanted to marry Princess Fiona because then, he’d become the rightful King of Duloc! Not because of true love.

I always knew there was something shady about that guy besides his abnormally short legs. Didn’t you? But wait: there’s more. Farquaad’s father comes on stage, spilling yet another truth: Farquaad’s a halfling who is unfit to be ruler! The short Lord isn’t even a true citizen of Duloc!

Just as the wedding is about to commence, Fiona steps in, but not in her regular self. She steps in as an Ogre (you go, girl!) – her true self and form.

With a dark, grand entrance from the Dragon, Farquaad is taken away and never to be seen again. Whereas with Shrek, Fiona, and Duloc? True love prevails, and the fairytale creatures are set free. Now how about that?

Photo Credit: Menaha Malik

Photo Credit: Menaha Malik

The acting throughout the musical was incredible. All of the characters were passionate, focused, and audible. Seriously – I forgot they were all MS students and teachers for a while! Instead, they were the characters the audience and I were watching on stage. Even a simple movement was in character, and the voices? If our eyes were closed, we’d be able to guess who many of the characters were from the top of our heads. It was awesome! Thankfully though, they turned back to their original selves. Imagine Gingy, Mama Bear, and the Three Little Pigs walking through the hallways and sitting right across from you in class. Probably not the ideal school environment, but hey: great job on the diversity!

What immediately stood out were the design elements of the musical: lighting, sound, costumes, make up, and the sets. The Design and Tech team really deserves an applause for everything they did and put together. The lighting and music was practically spot on, adding a lot of amazing aspects to the musical. And you should’ve seen those costumes! Shrek could never have been more original and Donkey could never have been more donkey-like. It was as if fairytale creatures were at AES for two evenings for an exclusive sighting and performance. Non-Shrek goers, I don’t know what to say to you all. I think I’ve proven my point.

You should have seen the audience during ‘Big Bright Beautiful World’, ‘Freak Flag’, and ‘Morning Person’. Jeez – even the grown-up adults were singing and dancing around (although I have to break it to you – it was a bit eerie). The audience was captivated almost the ENTIRE way through, from what I saw. That’s right. Even though we may have laughed in places we really shouldn’t have (like when Shrek, at the age of 7, was forced to go out into the “big bright beautiful world” which we all now know is not true) – the audience truly enjoyed it. There were squeals of joy when Donkey came in with his bubbly personality and GPS skills. And when Lord Farquaad appeared for the first time? There were a few rude accusations about his unmistakable height that I wish not to tell. But hey. They were at least paying attention! Oh, and you could NOT miss the little kids up front. Aside from their screams and loud, high-pitched laughs; they leaned forward throughout with their eyes glued on the mobile characters on stage. There were less noses picked and tears shed than I’ve ever seen before from groups of young kids. Now that definitely means something.

Shrek Jr. was an incredible musical and an experience any audience member would have a hard time forgetting. Without even one member who helped with the musical, I’m pretty sure Shrek Jr. would not have been the same. I’d like to give a big shout out to all of you for getting the song ‘Freak Flag’ stuck in my head. Those of you who helped make the musical possible? Those tiring practices after-school, missed activities and sleepovers, early Saturday mornings when you had to get out of the warmth of your comfy bed – all those risks were worth it. It showed in your amazing performances. Non-Shrek-goers? I hope the message has gone across.

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