Shrek the Musical: Different, but Great

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For many people, Shrek is a kid’s icon in a kid’s movie, a popular kids movie that many don’t consider serious. Imagine, then, Shrek The Musical, Bellarmine’s choice for the winter musical that debuted on March 2nd. Directed by visual and performing arts chair Mr. Russel Marcel, Shrek the Musical seeks to tackle complex themes, and offer a more adult take on the series, while retaining its childlike charm.

“I thought at first it was a meme. I was really surprised, I didn’t know there was a Shrek musical, and I wondered how it could become a musical,” said Isaiah Saluta ’18, who plays Donkey famously voiced by Eddie in Murphy in the Disney movie. “But I saw it on Netflix, and I saw it was wholly different than the movie. There’s a difference in theme. I feel like they’re playing with the theme of loneliness more: mature themes. It’s obvious that it’s both really strongly a kid show and has really strong adult themes to embrace who you are as a person.” Isaiah felt drawn in by the themes of Shrek the Musical, and how it differs in tone to the movie. He felt especially compelled to Donkey, even though initially he didn’t go for the part.

“I didn’t really go for donkey, donkey went for me,” said Isaiah, summarizing why he chose to play Donkey. He enjoys the comedic nature of Donkey’s lines, and tries to shape a donkey that draws from Eddie Murphy’s performance, yet is unique to himself. Indeed, Many of the lead actors felt drawn to their roles as well.

“My favorite character was Lord Farquaad. I think what’s really exciting about the character are moments where he is vulnerable,” said Tyler Okunski ‘18, who plays Farquaad, “I think I chose to go that directions because I think what people want to see on stage are the real parts of you.” Lord Farquaad has a far bigger role in the musical and even has his past revealed, and Tyler promises to make his scenes count.

“What’s really exciting about Farquaad is an element of him where he puts on a mask of being a big scary guy even though he’s only four feet tall. I think there’s a nice core to the character, where there are a couple moments where you can show how he has been damaged, and how everyone has been through low points in their lives,” said Tyler, “I think that being able to combine that with the comedic timing that the role is provided within the script, as well as the evil parts and funny, maniacal things, makes him seem so much more real and like a person. I think the script beautifully balances the moments where he is vulnerable, and where he shows his past. We learn more about him and where he’s from, and combining it with funny or maniacal elements is what makes the character so cool.” Tyler perseveres, fitting into the role of a chronically short man by doing all his choreography on his knees.

In addition, nothing about Shrek the Musical would feel complete without covering the titular character.

“Shrek is a big, ugly ogre who has been hated his entire life. He comes around, at the end, to being more comfortable with who he is, and meeting people who are more comfortable with who he is,” said David DeRuiter ’19, who plays Shrek, “I was considering angling for a couple roles in the show, but Shrek was one of the most obvious ones.” For David, Shrek offered a chance to not only take part in a musical that he loved for its different themes, but also for letting him take on a role that he would normally not. He especially enjoys the greater depth afforded to the characters, and how well scenes from the movie still fit into the musical.

“I took my daughter to the Broadway tour in San Francisco. I thought she’ll love this, but I wouldn’t get much out of it. But then I saw it, and I realized it was fun, imaginative, creative, with wonderful songs and great characters,” said Mr. Marcel, “It covered themes that were moving and surprisingly relevant. It wasn’t just the movie: it was beyond it. It was a legit Broadway show with legit Broadway songs, great dance numbers, and tons of color. It was awesome, and I ended up loving the musical.” Mr. Marcel feels that the heavier, more deeply explored themes of the show, are what makes it such a great play, in addition to its startling complexity and inventiveness. Mr. Marcel considers it among the hardest plays he has ever directed, due to its complexity, as well.

“We’ve done a lot of heavy shows recently, and it’s great to do something lighter. But, I say lighter yet it’s still an incredibly relevant show. Especially when we’re looking at race this year, with the show’s themes of appreciating our differences.