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Malibu Middle School’s presentation of Shrek delights, inspires

Malibu Middle School students (left to right) Lola Weber, as Donkey; Johnny Sheridan, as Shrek; and Ava Ray, as Fiona, act in “Shrek the Musical Jr.” Friday, Feb. 10. Photos by Suzy Demeter/22nd Century Media
Director Brigette Leonard (back, middle) is surrounded by the cast for “Shrek the Musical Jr.”
Sam Marshall, as Lord Farquaad, performs in “Shrek the Musical Jr.” on Friday, Feb. 10.
The Dragon in Shrek is played by Camille Anneet.
Malibu Middle School performs in Shrek.
Donkey, played by Lola Weber, and Shrek, played by Johnny Sheridan, perform.
Pinocchio is played by Lauren Reed, the Gingerbread Man is played by Jersie Byford and the Wicked Witch is played by Scarlett Steinberg in "Shrek the Musical Jr."
Shrek, played by Johnny Sheridan, and Fiona, played by Ava Ray, perform Friday, Feb. 10.
Malibu Middle School actors perform "Shrek the Musical Jr."
Barbara Burke, Freelance Reporter
9:26 am PST February 15, 2017

Malibu Middle School performed Shrek this past weekend, thrilling and delighting audiences and offering important life lessons about individuality, empathy, tolerance and acceptance.

From the opening of the curtain to the final rendition of “I’m a Believer,” the student actors did not miss a beat.  

“‘Shrek the Musical’ has inspired me to not care about what people think and be myself,” said seventh-grader Johnny Sheridan, who played Shrek. “Many people are afraid to be themselves because they think they are too weird. The fairy tale creatures are sent to the swamp because Lord Farquaad wants a perfect kingdom. There is no such thing as perfect and everyone has something freakish about them. Let your freak flag fly!”

Director Brigette Leonard, aided by Amanda Kofsky, assistant director, and Krysta Sorenson, musical director, guided the group of talented students who, with accompaniment from Cha Cha McNaughton, took the audience on an impressive, fun-filled ride for the entire evening.

The play opened with 7-year-old Shrek being told that it was time for him to go out into the world on his own, and that he better be cautious because everyone will dislike and ostracize him since he is an ogre. 

Sheridan, joined by Mama Ogre (Scarlett Steinberg) and Baby Ogre (Ethan Marshall) sang “Big Bright Beautiful World” superbly. 

Banished to the swamp, Shrek grows up isolated and bitter until he is interrupted by a gaggle of creatures who have been banished to his swap: Big Bad Wolf (Bailey Mathews),  Wicked Witch (Steinberg), Mama Bear (Emma Carroll), Papa Bear (Jersie Byford), Baby Bear (Madison Ford), Peter Pan (Gabi Kofsky), Ugly Duckling (Marshall), the three little pigs (Elle Baker, Anita Lopez Vita and Waverly Wildman), a fairy (Charlotte White), the Pied Piper (Sofia Banducci) and Pinocchio (Lauren Reed). 

Reed is no stranger to the stage, having held parts in “Cats,” “Peter Pan,” and played Darcy in “Darcy’s Cinematic Life” for Young Actors Project.

“Playing Pinocchio was so much fun,” Reed said. “It was challenging being a puppet, but I loved it in the end. Miss Leonard brings out the best acting in us and is such an awesome acting coach and show director. I especially love working with the cast and crew. We all share the same passion. Shrek rocks!” 

Shrek, wanting none of having new neighbors, vows to confront Farquaad so he can regain his solitude. 

Sheridan, a talented young actor who knows how to command a stage — he has played Peter in “Peter Pan,” Link Larkin in “Hairspray,” Prince Charming in “Cinderella,” and Eddie Flagrante in “Zombie Prom” — belted out a flawless rendition of “The Goodbye Song.”

As Shrek sets out on his trek to confront Farquaad, he encounters a loquacious and slightly irritating donkey, played flawlessly by Lola Weber.  

After much cajoling by Donkey, and Weber’s excellent performance of “Don’t Let Me Go,” the reluctant Shrek lets Donkey join him on his journey.

At the castle, Farquaad tortures Gingy (Byford), a gingerbread man with attitude, so he will reveal the whereabouts of Princess Fiona whom he wants to marry so he can become a King. Gingy finally reveals that Princess Fiona is imprisoned in a tower surrounded by lava and protected by a dragon (Camille Anneet). 

Farquaad decrees there will be a festival to choose who will go save Princess Fiona so she can be his bride.

The kingdom’s citizens gather for the festival as Shrek and Donkey come upon the scene, and Farquaad orders Shrek to retrieve Fiona from the tower in exchange for a deed to the swamp.  The scene segues to 7-year-old Fiona (Ford), isolated in the tower, dreaming of being rescued by a prince. 

Fiona grows in front of the audience, developing into a beautiful teen (Ornella Wolf), and then into an adult (Ava Ray). All three Fionas sang “I Know It’s Today” eloquently.   

Shrek leaves Donkey alone and goes to fetch Fiona, whereupon Donkey encounters a ferocious Dragon and some knights who were captured in previous unsuccessful attempts to reach the Princess.  

Dare to Dream Theater provided costumes for the production, and its Dragon costume — bright purple in color, massive in size, and superbly created — was one of the highlights of the show. 

Shrek finally reaches Fiona who, with schoolgirl-like romantic notions, attempts to get him to play out the romantic encounter she has long envisioned. However, the recalcitrant Shrek wants to get on with the business of getting her to the castle so he perfunctorily makes her leave. 

As the trio begins their excursion back to the castle, Fiona is appalled to find that Shrek is not a knight in shining armor suitor, but is instead an ogre. Shrek explains she is to wed Farquaad. 

As nightfall approaches, Fiona insists on retiring and it is here that the audience first sees that at night, due to a witch’s spell, she transforms into a hideous ogress.

Shrek reveals to Donkey that he is sweet on Fiona, but he is pessimistic about giving overtures because he is an ogre. 

Intermission made for impressed audience members of all ages.

“I liked Princess Fiona!” little Mabel Rose Brostowicz said. “The costumes were fancy!”

Mabel’s friends Jonah and Augie Frank agreed.

“I liked all of it. All of it was my favorite,” Jonah said. 

“I liked the music and the costumes,” Augie chimed in.

Andrew Nickerson, of Malibu, agreed.

“I think this production is amazingly good. The kids are all very talented and have great voices,” he said. “But most of all, what is impressive is the energy here tonight. The kids are having a great time.” 

Act II did not disappoint.

Fiona meets the new day engrossed with idyllic images of her wedding day. 

However, she is soon deflated by Donkey and Shrek’s jokes about Farquaad’s verticality challenges. 

Shrek mocks Fiona’s complaints about having a challenging childhood, resulting in the pair vying for the dubious award for worst childhood (“I Think I Got You Beat”), and a sequence of exchanging disgusting, but hysterical, bodily emissions. 

This is when the pair begins to hit it off.

Donkey and three adorably clad birds, bedecked in sequins and feather plumages dangling from their derrieres, try to convince the shy Shrek to express his love to Fiona.   

However, sunset looms and before Shrek musters the courage to do so, Fiona abruptly announces she is retiring for the night. 

When Donkey persists with Fiona, following her to where she has retreated, wishing to address the subject of Shrek and her being attracted, he witnesses Fiona’s transformation into an ogress. She tells him that a kiss is the only thing that will purge the curse a witch has cast upon her. 

A smitten Shrek tries to get the courage up to tell Fiona he is sweet on her. Sheridan’s performance of “When Words Fail” was both hysterical and endearing.

Finally mustering the gumption to approach Fiona, Shrek approaches where she has retired for the evening, only to mistake her remarks to Donkey about how hideous she is as an ogress for comments about him. Offended and dejected, he storms off the stage.

Sunrise meets up with a dejected Fiona, who has decided to tell Shrek about the curse and her ogress affliction. However, Shrek, still deeply offended, rejects her overtures.

Now upset, Fiona agrees to marry Farquaad, but convinces him to arrange the wedding before sundown.

In other parts of the kingdom, the fairy tale creatures resolve to challenge the Prince and protest their maltreatment.  

Undaunted, Donkey finally convinces Shrek that Fiona cares about him and her insulting comments about having monster-like qualities were self-deprecating comments about herself. 

Shrek bolts to the castle, aborts the wedding at the very last minute, and declares his love for Fiona. 

Fiona, conflicted, is torn between her feelings for Shrek and her desire to break the curse.

The tension is broken by the entrance of the protesting fairy tale creatures.  

Sunset arrives and Fiona transforms into an ogress in front of all gathered. 

Revolted, Farquaad still insists his wedding to Fiona is viable and he is now a king.  

Shrek whistles, summoning the dragon, who in a wonderful scene with special effect lighting slays Prince Farquaad, leaving Shrek and Fiona to declare their undying love for one another, despite the fact that Fiona’s spell was broken by their kiss.

The drama ended with “This is Our Story,” with its words of wisdom such as, “What makes us special makes us strong.” 

Lastly, the whole ensemble sang a wonderful rendition of “I’m a Believer.”

The audience left thrilled, knowing that beauty is in the eye of the ogre and that Sheridan is right: Everyone has something a little freakish about them.  

There is no perfect world.  

Let your freak flag fly!