“Shrek the Musical”: A musical comedy profuse with fantasy and wisdom

Cast members bow at the end of the performance.

When “Shrek” made its debut in movie theaters across the country in April 2001, it was an immediate hit, and the big lime-green ogre soon became a household name. Now, 21 years later, WJ S*T*A*G*E brings the iconic movie to the auditorium with multiple performances of “Shrek the Musical.”

The show opens with a scene portraying Shrek’s parents sending their seven-year-old away from home. From there, we follow Shrek’s story as he journeys out of his solitary swamp and grows into an adult, meeting diverse characters, many of whom hail from other well-known stories, like Pinnochio and the Three Little Pigs. The story focuses on the love developed between Shrek and Princess Fiona and the hurdles they have to face together. Along with the main storyline, the show is spiced up with side characters like the sassy Donkey, the undersized Lord Farquaad and the persistent Dragon.

Although the musical is almost three hours long, comprising a large portion of music, it did a great job of capturing and holding the audience’s attention with the character banter and the presentation of details. The musical enlivens the story with modern pop-culture references and captivating solo performances, yet stays true to the original film’s message and quirky style. The dynamic score of songs accompanied by the pit orchestra’s live soundtrack unveils the unique personality and voice of the characters. From Donkey’s uptempo “Don’t Let Me Go” to Lord Farquaad’s sympathetic “The Ballad of Farquaad” to Shrek and Fiona’s competitive duet “I Think I Got You Beat,” each song not only deepens our understanding of the characters, but also brings their emotions to a higher level.

The musical is primarily a lighthearted comedy with a generous dose of hilarious scenes. There are also a couple of sentimental moments with profound messages, like Shrek’s harsh awakening of the reality of being an ogre alienated by others. The occasional shift of tone between the comedic and tender sides adds layers and depth to the characters.

The show wouldn’t be complete without the stage set, costumes and props. Many scenes are inventive in using the environments and backdrops to match the stage mood, from a wall of winking stars to the elaborate Duloc castle. Effects like the swirling mist and the shattering glass were used at the right timing, creating suspense, mystery or other atmospheres.

Students have positive reactions to the musical.

“I liked how many songs they put into it, and it made the play really interesting,” sophomore Beteal Tilahun said. “I especially liked the Dragon. She looked gorgeous. Her singing—phenomenal. The interactions between Donkey and her—just perfect.”

“Shrek the Musical” was the first S*T*A*G*E play that Tilahun watched, and she was impressed and plans on attending future ones.

“I love the way they changed it up from the original film and were really creative with it. They added their own jokes, which allows the audience to get entertained and interact with the people themselves,” sophomore Rissel Anog said.

Both the cast and crew’s efforts paid off after months of work.

“From the crew side of things, I’m really happy with how we made all the little pieces come together,” fly operator and freshman Ari Mcintosh said.

Junior Andy Levin, one of the two actors who played Shrek, is proud of all the cast and crew for persevering through hardships and delivering strong performances.

“It was my first show with WJ S*T*A*G*E. I thought I’d put my best work out there. We all nailed it,” Levin said. “I love performing and sharing the stage with all my friends. It’s a dream come true.”

With the last performance of “Shrek the Musical,” S*T*A*G*E wrapped up their formal stage shows in the 2021-2022 year. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of the cast and crew members, the WJ community enjoyed five performances of laughter, reflection and wonder.