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Parkwood Middle students to perform ‘JR’ version of Broadway musical

(From left) Kenidy Bell, Abbie Keenan and Kylie Brooks will portray the three Fionas in “Shrek JR.” Josh Whitener/UCW photo

MONROE – Dozens of small-scale fairy-tale and storybook characters will come to life in Union County this weekend, as students from Parkwood Middle School present their stage production of “Shrek The Musical JR.”
“Shrek The Musical” is a Broadway production that follows the story of the popular Dreamworks animated film, “Shrek,” with original music added. “Shrek JR.” is a condensed version of the popular Broadway show, adapted for younger performers.

Nicole DePietro, Parkwood Middle’s drama teacher, said she chose “Shrek JR.” as this year’s spring musical not only because of the show’s popularity, but also because the story is relevant to the issues students face. “It deals with being who you are and learning to love yourself for who you are,” DePietro said, referencing “Freak Flag,” one of the show’s popular songs. “One of the key lines is, ‘Let your freak flag fly.’ That’s an important lesson or kids to learn – it’s OK to be a little bit strange because that’s what makes you interesting.”

Thirty-five students have spent nearly five months preparing for the show. One of the things DePietro loves about “Shrek JR.” is it allows all of the performers to be their own character, whether they have a lead or supporting role, or are simply part of the chorus.

“Last year (in ‘The Little Mermaid JR.’) they were all fish,” DePietro said of the students in the chorus. “Now, they are individual characters. The kids are getting to be different people on stage.” Eighth-grader Stephen Brown, who will play Shrek, said this is his first time performing in a musical at Parkwood Middle, though he has participated in a number of stage productions in the past. He said he’s looking forward to portraying the show’s title character on stage.

“I really like big roles, and I like roles where you get to act a lot,” Stephen said. “… It’s a good, complex type of show that takes a lot to do, and it’s going to be executed very perfectly.” 

William Hubert, the eighth-grader who will play Shrek’s archenemy, Lord  Arquaad, said he appreciates that the script calls for a variety of characters. “‘Shrek,’ I was extremely excited for, because it’s got so many roles where everybody has their own moment to shine,” William said. “Farquaad was my first pick because he’s just so out-loud and eccentric – he reminds me of me, but short.” 

While last year’s production of “The Little Mermaid” involved a more complex set, DePietro said this year’s biggest challenge has been costuming. Dynamic costume creations have been possible thanks to a group of family members who have volunteered to help, she said. “We’re having to create so many individualized costumes, where as last year it was mass production of fish costumes,”  DePietro said. “That made it harder to do.” 

Andrew Parker, the eighth-grader who will play Donkey, said one of his biggest challenges has involved his own costume. “The biggest challenge so far has been adjusting how you started to (rehearse) just by yourself to how you do it with the costume, because there’s a lot of adjusting depending on how your costume fits and how comfortable it is,” Andrew said. “There’s lots of costumes, so it gets kind of hot when you’re up there (on stage).”

DePietro said people planning to attend “Shrek JR.” can look forward to a “really fun, feel-good show” and a humorous, relatable story with catchy tunes and a positive message. “I think the things that happen to the characters are things that people can relate to on a regular basis,” she said. 

“The most important thing about what led us to this story – it’s really important for this play more than anything I've ever done – is I want the kids to get the positive message out of it: ‘It’s OK to be an individual; it’s OK to be who you are.’”

Performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, May 8 and 9, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 10, at 3 p.m. in the Parkwood High School auditorium. The school is located at 3220 Parkwood School Road.

Written by: by Josh Whitener, Union County Weekly
Posted: May 08, 2015 by Lisa Chapman

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