“Shrek the Musical,” which opens at Brewster High School this week, is essentially a buddy musical with the unlikeliest of buddies.
There’s Shrek the green ogre, played by senior Andrew Gordon, his (unrequested but insistent) sidekick, Donkey, played by junior Janet Bergquist, and Princess Fiona, a royal with a secret, played by junior Sydney Gershon.
The three have been spending what they say seems like every waking moment together, building chemistry, figuring each other out.
One is cranky, one talks way to much, one has been trapped in a tower for years. And they all go to school together.
The irreverent musical — based on the equally irreverent 2001 DreamWorks animated film (and the original books by William Steig) — has music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. It ran 441 performances on Broadway and has a lively score that includes the songs “Big Bright Beautiful World,” “I Know It’s Today,” “I Think I Got You Beat,” and “Freak Flag.”
“Shrek” is a big, bright, colorful show, one that gives a hard-working ensemble of knights and fairytale creatures plenty of room to shine. (Don’t miss senior Anthony Buonarobo’s voice as Pinocchio, in the Running Lines video below.)
The piece’s heavy is senior Brandon Salamone as the diminutive Lord Farquaad, a walking, talking sight gag.
Gordon (Shrek) and Bergquist (Donkey) said they realized over the course of weeks of rehearsal that they are closer to their characters than they first thought.
Says Bergquist: “Andrew has a dry sense of humor and I’m just a goofball.”
Gordon offers some un-Shrek-like praise for his co-star.
“Janet makes Donkey her own and isn’t trying to be Eddie Murphy from the movie or Daniel Breaker from Broadway. She’s really making it her own. A lot of people might be surprised to see that Donkey is a girl when they come to see the production, but she’s really doing an awesome job and I’m proud of her.”
“She’ll deliver the same line differently every time, but it’ll end up funny every time,” he said.
Bergquist is a Gordon fan.
“The character is so emotionally demanding that we see Shrek grow as a person — or an ogre — throughout the show,” she said. “It requires you not only to have the comedic timing — which Andrew clearly possesses — but also the emotional depth to be able to play someone with such a hard background.”
The musical fleshes out the reason for Shrek’s gruff exterior — beyond his general ogreness — and gives him, and Fiona, a backstory.
“When you see the show, you see what he has gone through and I think Andrew really represents Shrek well in that light.”
Laura Lopez sings the role of the Dragon, aided and abetted by a crew of puppeteers in a visually stunning bit of theater magic.
Gershon said she likes playing the “sassy” and bipolar Fiona, a woman who is not what she appears to be at first.
The first time we meet the princess, in the song “I Know It’s Today,” she’s a little kid, sure that today is the day she’ll be rescued by a handsome prince and freed from her towery prison.
Then she appears a few years older, equally sure that today is the day she’ll be rescued by a handsome prince and freed from her towery prison.
By the time Gershon joins the trio, her certainty — and optimism — have waned.
That twisted take on the fairy tale life sums up Shrek in a nutshell — or a tower.
In the end, “Shrek” delivers a message about being yourself and not letting others judge you.
How many buddy musicals do you know that preach that?
“Shrek the Musical”—7:30 p.m., March 19, 20, 21; 2 p.m., March 21, 22—$15—845-279-5051.
Here’s the Running Lines video I shot at Brewster, where director Stephanie Rubino and the kids absolutely NAILED IT. Enjoy!