Parker High School presents 'Shrek the Musical'
JANESVILLE—You think you know Shrek?
You'd think most of us would by now after four animated movies.
But it's quite possible you really don't know Shrek, said Parker High School senior Tucker Topel.
Topel plays the squeaky-voiced Pinocchio in “Shrek the Musical,” which opens Thursday, Nov. 21, at Parker.
Topel, who is also the show's set designer, said the musical takes a step into deeper waters that the movies barely considered.
The musical, like the movie, tells the tale of the ogre Shrek, his donkey companion known as Donkey, Princess Fiona, a fire-breathing, lovesick dragon and the conniving Lord Farquaad.
By all accounts, the writers of “Shrek the Musical” have preserved the tale while injecting depth into the characters and adding a message by elevating the voices of the fairytale misfits.
The moral of the story is expressed joyfully and without reservation in the song “Freak Flag,” in which the various fairytale characters—including Pinocchio, Humpty-Dumpty and The Three Little Pigs—get to have their say about being—pick your adjective—bizarre, extraordinary, fantastic, funny, odd, offbeat, outlandish, peculiar.
“I'm wood! I'm good! Get used to it!” Pinocchio proclaims.
“It's about embracing anything that makes you different,” said Micaela VanKirk, a junior who plays Princess Fiona.
The princess gets added depth by revealing what a lifetime living in a tower can do to your mental health.
“Everyone has self-esteem problems,” Van Kirk said. “'Shrek' shows that instead of trying to hide them, just let them out. Be proud of them.”
“Don't change; just be yourself,” is the moral as Nate Traynor sees it. The junior plays Donkey in an easy-to-identify Eddie Murphy voice.
Traynor says of his character: “He is pretty much obnoxious all the time and acts like a child, which is pretty much me,” Traynor said, although one suspects he can and does exhibit of adult behavior.
Jacob Schmidt, a sophomore who played leading roles in Parker's “Miss Saigon” last year and in the summer school musical “Les Miserables,” is Shrek.
“Shrek the Musical” expands on the movie, Schmidt said.
For example, the show opens with a flashback to Shrek's childhood. Young ogre Shrek is played by kindergartner Abigail Dalton.
“I think it gives you more depth than the movie does,” Schmidt said.
At the same time, “Everybody can identify with this thing. They're going to love it,” said director Jim Tropp. “It's very well written. It moves very well.”
The Parker crew once again is reaching outside the high school's walls for a service project with this show. Last year, the project involved local military veterans. This year, cast members visited three Janesville elementary schools, where they performed, and then the fairytale characters read stories to classes and presented the books as donations.
The idea is to promote one of the district's top academic goals and the love of reading, said Jan Knutson, the show's music director.
“Shrek the Musical” is the national-tour version, which differs somewhat from the Broadway version, Tropp said. It was released for use just this past year, and Clinton High School performed it earlier this month. Members of the Parker cast had planned to attend the Clinton show.