W.T. Woodson High School
Ogres and donkeys and dragons…oh my! In Falls Church High School’s Shrek the Musical, the epic story of true love took the stage. Based on the well-known DreamWorks movie and the book by William Steig, Shrek reminds us that despite the adversities and injustices of life, it’s still a “big, bright beautiful world”.
The musical follows the journey of Shrek (Carson Hopkins), who desperately wishes to remain in isolation in his home at the swamp, away from the cruel outside world. However, his dream is far from a reality. A vibrant cast of fairy tale creatures arrives at the swamp, banished for their quirks and irregularities. Shrek sets off to save his swamp and embarks on an incredible journey that will change his life forever. Along the way, he meets a vivacious and very friendly Donkey (Patrick Kearney), the short and cranky Lord Farquaad (Adam Ashley), and he rescues Fiona (Eileanora Clock), a princess turned ogress, who turns out to be his true love.
Helping to transport the audience to a fairy tale world, many actors demonstrated their craft for accents. Shrek’s impressive Scottish accent added to his character overall, however, at times it impeded his singing capabilities, affecting articulation and vowel placement. The energetic and excited Princess Fiona introduced herself in the iconic song “I Know It’s Today”, where Samaria Dellorso as Teen Fiona was a standout. While Shrek and Fiona struggled to connect early on, by the second act the chemistry between the two increased, adding an extra layer of enjoyment. The fiery Dragon (Jia Syed) graced the audience with a rich, full tone in her song “Forever”.
The show's ensemble, whether running from the guards, chasing after the fairy tale characters, or dancing around the swamp, showed real energy, but several actors shifted in and out of the scene, not always reacting and being involved. The ensemble impressed with their flag throwing skills during “Freak Flag”, in which the Sugar Plum Fairy (Danielle Phan) sang a powerful declaration to the virtues of being different.
The sound crew worked with an astounding 24 mics in this show, which is a difficult task. When some actors' mics were not working, the actors succeeded in allowing a wonderful orchestra to shine through and demonstrated good timing for bodily function sounds during “I Got You Beat”.
In a day and age where discrimination and injustice continue center stage, Shrek’s message of acceptance reminds us to treat everyone, whether human, ogre, or anything in between, with kindness and an open mind. We must remember that everyone has layers, and just like Shrek, when we slowly peel them back, we realize that the scariest, strangest, and most diverse people are just like us deep down inside.
Albert Einstein High School
We all know the stories of Pinocchio and The Three Little Pigs... Or, at least we thought we did. But what happens when a whole ensemble of misfit fairy tale characters is evicted from the Land of Duloc and ends up in the swamp of an abrasive, yet lovable ogre named Shrek? The unlikely hero goes on an epic quest to rescue a princess with a secret, and an unexpected romance begins to brew. Forget everything you know about fairy tales and enter the world of Falls Church High School’s production of Shrek the Musical!
Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire’s musical chronicles the marvelous adventures of Shrek, an ogre that roared and belched his way into the hearts of audiences everywhere in the 2001 DreamWorks movie Shrek and the 1990 picture book of the same name written by William Steig, both which the musical draws from. Premiering in 2008 in Seattle, the musical’s dynamic characters, energetic nature, and impressive vocal demonstrations earned it a Broadway run beginning that same year, 12 Drama Desk nominations, 8 Tony nominations, and a Grammy. Since its close on Broadway in 2010, the colorful show has seen major reworking and numerous productions around the globe.
This quirky show found itself a temporary home at Fall Church High School, starring Carson Hopkins as Shrek and Eileanora Clock as Princess Fiona. Both did an excellent job of portraying the quirks of their characters, being able to make an ogre and a princess appear oddly relatable. Hopkins’ gentle and soft-spoken nature successfully illustrated Shrek’s easygoing side, especially in numbers such as “Who I’d Be” and “When Words Fail”. Comedic actor Adam Ashley in the pint-sized role of Lord Farquaad had the audience in stitches with his sassy stage presence and his physicality, especially since he had to adapt to being on his knees for much of the show to portray Lord Farquaad’s atypical height. Despite the fantastic performances of the leading cast, the real show stealers were arguably a group of unexpected featured performers, notably Tate Wroblewski as Pinocchio, Jia Syed’s smooth vocals as the Dragon, and Danielle Phan’s skilled ventriloquism and incredibly powerful voice as The Gingerbread Man. All three had great stage presence and worked well within the confines of their roles.
These strong performances were only enhanced by the skillful crew work. Though there were occasional microphone issues, the company would not let it affect the flow of the production and the sound crew found its footing eventually--impressive considering a total of 24 microphones were used, unusual for a high school production. Standout choreography, led by Darius Bryant, effectively contributed to the fun nature of the show, and the skillful execution had the audience in awe. Standout numbers include the dance break in “Morning Person” and the intricate flag twirling in “Freak Flag.”
A combination of heartfelt numbers, a strong cast, and impressive technical accomplishments, Falls Church High School's fantastic production of Shrek the Musical is worth seeing whether you are already a Shrek lover or have yet to become a fan.