Shrek: the Musical by Haverford High School in Havertown, PA
March 21, 2018
Review submitted by Allegra Greenawalt of Harriton High School
Everybody loves a classic fairytale, with elegant princesses, enchanting godmothers, and perfectly happy endings. But what kind of beloved fairytale features a slimy green ogre, a belching princess, and a talking donkey? It’s none other than Haverford High School’s shrek-tacular production of Shrek: The Musical!
Based on the 2001 Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature, Shrek: The Musical tells the tale of an outcast ogre named Shrek who wants nothing more than a life of isolation in his swamp. When he discovers his land has been infiltrated by rejected fairytale creatures, he sets out on a quest to rescue his home, even if it means striking a deal with a vertically challenged overlord to save a princess from a dragon-guarded tower. With a book by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, this critically acclaimed musical is thoroughly entertaining for people of all ages.
Haverford’s production was filled with important messages, displaying themes that were extremely relevant to political and social issues of today. While the musical calls for a mostly male-lead cast, Haverford featured strong female actresses in nearly all of these roles. It was a unique and innovative approach to the casting, alluding to current movements of female empowerment throughout the modern world.]
As the title character, Isabella Borgesi embodied Shrek with an intimidating stance and dominating stage presence. Her alto vocals soared through her solo songs, most notably the adorable “When Words Fail” and political allegory “Build a Wall”. She shared great chemistry with the energetic Caroline Sessa (Donkey) and the elegant Krystyna Barr (Fiona), who showed off her tap dancing skills in the act two opener, “Morning Person”.
Standouts among the supporting cast included Nikki Moscony (Lord Farquaad) and Jack O’Leary (Papa Ogre/Big Bad Wolf). Moscony’s menacing laugh and booming voice made her the perfect villain, and O’Leary’s comedic timing stole the show whenever he graced the stage. Also notable was the powerhouse Dragon ensemble of Ingrid Slater, Cecily Schultz, Maddie Snell, Pammie Cobaugh, Grazia LaRosa, and Annajean Gionta. Their powerful vocals in the song “Forever” made it one of the most memorable numbers of the show.
With an ensemble of over one hundred people, costuming everyone could have been problematic. However, the Haverford Costume Team rose to the challenge and designed a large array of beautiful costumes which not only characterized the lead actors, but gave each individual ensemble member their own identity.
In a day and age where discrimination and injustice are prominent issues worldwide, it is essential that we remember “what makes us special makes us strong.” Haverford’s production of Shrek: The Musical inspired everyone with the message: never be afraid to let your freak flag fly!
Review submitted by Evan Braasch of Bordentown Regional High School
Once upon a stage at Haverford High School, there lived an awful, ugly ogre — or at least that’s how it looked on the outside.
Shrek: The Musical, a fresh new fairy tale based on the Dreamworks film of the same name, opened on Broadway in 2008, featuring Broadway “all-stars” Sutton Foster and Brian d’Arcy James. Its story, while cartoonish and crude, teaches the invaluable life lesson that people are more than what they seem to be on the outside. In other words, it teaches to not “judge a book by its cover.”
Coincidentally, Haverford High School’s production was a perfect example of this oft-repeated advice: first, most principal roles traditionally played by males were instead played by females. From the start, these performers were different from what was expected, and yet they brought beautiful new character elements to the stage. Second, almost every aspect of the show, from costume creation to music direction, was student-run, meaning that the show’s level of difficulty was significantly higher. While on the surface the performance was not entirely spotless, it was all the more impressive when this was considered.
Isabella Borgesi and Krystyna Barr (Shrek and Fiona), each with less-than-fortunate character backgrounds, tugged at heartstrings in both their solo songs and duets. Meanwhile, their “trusty steed” Caroline Sessa (Donkey), offered comic relief as love doctor and wingman in “Make A Move”. Last and least — in stature, that is — was Nikki Moscony (the vertically challenged Lord Farquad), whose perfectly timed jokes were in no… short supply.
Every member of Haverford’s sizeable ensemble was a fairy tale character, which allowed for several side-splitting one-liners. Led by Tommy Barnes (Pinocchio), Mable Peach (Gingy), and Jack O’Leary (the Big Bad Wolf), the fun of these “freaks” shone particularly in their songs “Story of My Life” and “Freak Flag”.
Students imagined convenient but considerably clever solutions for Shrek’s technical elements. To create scaly dragon makeup, Candice Sammartino painted onto performers’ faces using fishnet as a stencil. To simplify scene changes, students painted a double-sided set, one side with trees and the other a castle. To illustrate more challenging elements of the story, they suspended a large white sheet and projected shadows behind it with an overhead projector.
After learning the importance of inner beauty and skillfully surviving one “beast” of a show, the cast of Haverford High School can now truly live happily ever after.