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The City Journals

‘Shrek the Musical Jr.’ comes to Hunter Jr. High with tale of acceptance

Mar 13, 2017 04:48PM ● By Travis Barton

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

A green ogre and his swamp is coming to Hunter Jr. High.

Hunter Jr. High theatre department will play “Shrek the Musical Jr.” in the school’s auditorium at 6:30 p.m. from March 15-17. The musical, based off the 2001 Dreamworks film and 1990 book, was turned into a Broadway play in 2008.

Theatre teacher Amy Hatch said the play is perfect for this age group.

“It’s a really liberating show for them to be goofy and funny and take a risk in a safe place. It’s so important for that age group, I was like ‘let’s do it,’” Hatch said.

She chose the play after dance teacher Emily Jensen, who helped choreograph the show, suggested she do so two years ago.

The musical, running about 70 minutes long, has about 40 cast members with Hatch describing her role as more of a facilitator, making adjustments to the students’ direction.

She said the finale that includes the famous song, “I’m a Believer,” was choreographed by the students. She also allowed for students to create their own character tics like the Wicked Witch having a New Jersey accent.

“I’m not a person that likes to take over cause I want them to show their personalities, there’s a lot of quirkiness in it and I love it,” Hatch said.

Hana McKinnon, who plays Donkey, said she wanted the character’s good vibes to emanate off the stage.

“I’m here to make people laugh, make people happy and the show more enjoyable and that’s what I’m trying to do onstage,” Hana, an eighth-grader, said.

For Adelaide Muir, who plays Fiona, she inhabited her character by studying what Fiona is feeling in her situation.

“She’s been trapped in a tower for 23 years and she just needs a little comfort and love. That’s really special to me,” said Adelaide, an eighth-grader who has performed at Hale Center Theatre.

The musical has multiple songs, something eighth-grader Hyrum Despain wasn’t fully prepared for when given the lead role of Shrek.

“(I did) a lot of singing practice, I wasn’t the best singer at first so I had to practice a lot,” he said.

Hyrum, who wears a fat suit to play the ogre, may have been the perfect person for the role of Shrek. Originally, he said he was uncomfortable holding Fiona’s hand and didn’t get along with everyone in the cast. Now his favorite part is having fun with everyone.

“It kinda tells everyone in the audience to accept everyone even though you might be a little different to try and get to know them and see their soft side,” Hyrum said.

Hatch said kids in junior high just want to be accepted and the show has characters with whom her students could identify.

“We talked a lot about how would you feel if you were rejected and told to move out of your home because you don’t look this way or you don’t act a certain way and they said ‘not good.’ What do you think they want more than anything? ‘Acceptance,’” Hatch recalled of the conversations.

It is a message the kids could understand. Adelaide said she has people in her family with autism and could relate to the show’s message of acceptance.

“It’s a really good family show, it’s something we need to embrace right now is acceptance and love,” Hatch said.

Hana agreed, adding she liked that it doesn’t matter what background you come from because “we’re all kind of in it together. No matter who you are or how much money you have or what family you come from.”

Just like the film, the show has many comedic moments from a farting duel between the main characters to the short-statured villain Lord Farquad.

Though Hatch has many favorite moments, she is excited for people to see the tap number that Jensen helped prepare.

“It’s something they wouldn’t expect for junior high. The tap number is going to be the greatest, and the finale is pretty darn cute,” she said.