“Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.”
Shrek blew everyone away when it hit the big screen all the way back in April of 2001. It told the story of a diminutive dictator, Lord Farquaad, who took it upon himself to cleanse his domain of unsavory fairytale creatures. One cantankerous ogre with an inexplicable Scottish accent wouldn’t stand for his swamp to become Farquaad’s gulag, so after beating the tar out of a bunch of guys cut a deal with the autarch: He would retrieve a princess in exchange for his swamp’s security. He was joined along the way by a donkey, named Donkey, who sounded inexplicably like Eddie Murphy.
Shrek struck a chord with audiences thanks not only to its sense of humor, but also its poignant lessons on bravery, acceptance, and onions. Now the cherished fable is coming live to Fargo courtesy of the kids of Ben Franklin Middle School and their music teacher Andrea Greenawalt.
“I had several kids ask me if we could put on a production of Shrek the Musical Jr.,” said Andrea. “The movie is older than any of my students by now, but it has stayed very popular since it came out. The kids still love the story. There have recently been a lot of ‘memes,’ or whatever you would call them, on the internet about Shrek too.
“Shrek the Musical Jr. has so much going for it. The costumes are wonderful — they’re just so fun, and they really let the kids become someone else. Our costume designer Sandy Thiel, who works with several of the area’s schools, is providing the same costumes used by Trollwood Performing Arts School for the musical a few years ago. The play has a lot of the same songs as the original movie, like ‘I’m a Believer,’ ‘Big Bright Beautiful World,’ and ‘This Is How a Dream Comes True.’ The junior show’s songs are a little more accessible to middle school kids, shorter and with less complicated harmonies. The characters are great too. Even kids who don’t get to be Shrek, Fiona, or Donkey love portraying the Big Bad Wolf, the Three Little Pigs, Puss in Boots, and the Dragon.
“This show is a great opportunity to showcase our exceptional kids’ talents. The students with backgrounds in dancing have some pretty complex choreographies, and I am always impressed by how well our singers have learned to project their voices. Just staying in character over the course of a whole production can be a challenge for actors in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, but they’ve certainly proven themselves up for it.
“Shrek the Musical Jr. is the culmination of a lot of hard work. A lot of kids and their parents don’t realize how great a commitment putting on a show like this calls for: two to three hours of rehearsal, four or five days per week, for two months. But seeing it all come together so perfectly is one of the most rewarding things that the community can experience!”
Shrek the Musical Jr. will play at Ben Franklin Middle School at 7pm on February 27th, 28th, and 29th. It’s set to be some of the greatest fun to be had in Fargo this winter, and best of all the show is totally gratis — just make sure you clap extra hard, and see how many curtain calls you can get the kids into giving before they want to collapse from exhaustion. There is no need to reserve your tickets, just pick a night and show up early!
By David Scheller