Based on the DreamWorks animated motion picture and the book by William Steig, Shrek the Musical brought the popular, grumpy, green ogre Shrek and his band of motley storybook characters to life on the stage with dancing, singing, sight gags, silly antics, and big production numbers for the enjoyment of sold-out audiences at all performances.
In the story, Shrek, played by freshman Evan Petkis in full ogre costume, is nudged out of isolation in his swamp by some fairytale misfits, including Little Red Riding Hood, Peter Pan, the Ugly Duckling, Humpty Dumpty and the Three Bears. Labeled "freaks" and exiled from their storybook homeland by the malicious and diminutive Lord Farquaad, portrayed on alternate shows by junior Ryan Natcharian and freshman John Howley — each with his own style of evilness — the characters are sent to the swamp, where they enlist Shrek's assistance. Shrek is tasked with rescuing the headstrong Princess Fiona in a would-be Prince Charming routine. Along the way, the ogre reluctantly befriends a talkative Donkey, played with sassy style by freshman Simone Moales. Seniors Sarah Gyurina and Cameron Purdy, both veterans of the NEO stage, took turns playing Fiona in her two personae — human and full-costumed ogre — with confidence and charm.
In addition to elaborate costumes and makeup, the show featured an abundance of inventive and visually delightful stagecraft, including a three-person dragon puppet that moved as if in flight; a gingerbread hand puppet that spoke while lying atop a cookie sheet; a short-of-stature, dangle-legged Lord Farquaad played by each actor on his knees; and Pinocchio, played by senior Callista DeGraw, whose 3-D-printed nose, fashioned by science teacher Ewen Ross, grows with the aid of a disguised hand pump.
Shrek the Musical owed its huge success to the collaborative efforts of everyone involved in the production — students, faculty, staff, parents, and professional partners. With direction from Loomis' Theater & Dance, Music, and English Department faculty and senior Macon Jeffreys, student assistant director, more than 55 students appeared on stage, played instruments in the pit orchestra, served as dance captains, assumed responsibility for stage management, and helped with costumes, lighting, and sound crews. Original graphics for print and digital media promotions were designed by students in the extra-curricular graphic design class.
Director David McCamish notes in the Playbill that though Shrek the Musical takes place in a long-ago, far-away land, its themes of tolerance and embracing our differences, as well as the acknowledgement of the need we all share for acceptance and connection to community, are timely and remain universal.