The  character of Fiona is played by three actresses representing various ages of the princess over the course of her time locked away in a castle. Pictured, left to right, are Ashley Wettlan, Sarah Hurley and Camila Escobar.Pictured is Brandon Alan Gaunt, who plays Lord Farquaad in ‘Shrek the Musical.’Mark Eshenbaugh as 'Shrek'

‘Shrek the Musical’ has humor for all ages

Amanda Irwin's picture
Show begins Friday
Amanda Irwin

Behind the humorous lines, witty quips and quick jokes delivered by the cast of “Shrek the Musical,” a message of acceptance resonates throughout the play, reverberating from each song off the walls of the auditorium and between each laugh elicited from the audience.

The Greenville Children’s Theatre production of “Shrek the Musical,” based on the Dreamworks Animation movie, tells the story of how Shrek, an ogre who lived a solitary life, became an unlikely hero. After an array of well-known fairy tale creatures take up residence in his swamp because of the actions of Lord Farquaad, a short but humorous antagonist who wants to be king, Shrek is tasked with rescuing princess Fiona to get his swamp back.

But as Shrek sets out to accomplish the rescue, many entertaining adventures ensue.

“Shrek, kind of the main thing he goes through is the feeling of being in general misunderstood by the world around him because he’s really not an evil ogre, but everybody assumes he’s an evil ogre so he’s constantly having to fight that assumption,” said Mark Eshenbaugh, who plays Shrek.

“There’s a couple scenes where he walks in and everybody gasps and he’s like, ‘OK, fine I’ll do the ogre thing, I’ll roar because that’s what you’re expecting.’ But in his heart he’s really a softy and that comes out in the second act when he starts showing that he’s falling in love. That becomes the internal struggle between him. He’s like, ‘Do I deserve this? Should I be in love? Is that OK or not?’ I guess as far as how that relates to me, I guess everybody at some point in their life feels a little rejected or a little misunderstood or something, and that’s the feeling I latch onto to try and relate to him as a character.”

Shrek, Fiona and Donkey, Shrek’s closest friend, bond throughout the musical over their obvious lack of normalcy expected by the townspeople of Duloc.

“Fiona, she’s not the typical Disney princess,” said Sarah Hurley, who plays Fiona. “She’s really quirky. She’s been locked in this tower for like 23 years…and she’s been reading these fairy tale books and she’s trying to emulate all these perfect princess qualities, but really she’s just like any other normal girl, and she’s just really quirky and weird. Her and Shrek start bonding over burps and farts, that’s where they first kind of realize they like each other. So I think she’s a lot more relatable than traditional princesses. The show just really has a great message of just being yourself and loving yourself whoever you are and not having to conform to the Duloc standards.”

“It is very different, and I think maybe more than any other show that I’ve looked at, this one really makes an attempt at having a social agenda,” Eshenbaugh said. “It’s a pretty forward looking idea of really the final thought that the ensemble leaves you with: If you’re different from everybody else, that’s OK, you should just go with that. That’s really a message that doesn’t come out in a lot of shows – the be yourself. You hear the ‘Be yourself’ message in a lot of things, but for it to be shown so... you have all these fairy tale creatures that are very different from normal and they point out along the course of the show how they’re not normal, but what they’re saying is that’s OK. You don’t have to be ostracized because of that even though the authorities are attempting to. So it’s very socially relevant for what’s going on in our country and the world today.”

While the play touches on topics like self-acceptance and choosing to be oneself despite societal pressures, the play also offers a lot of quick-moving comedic dialogue for both young and older audiences to enjoy.

“It’s got humor that the kids are going to get. It’s got fairy tale creatures they’ll recognize, there’s some Disney princesses in it, so they’ll get the storyline. They’ll understand it’s a love story. But maybe some of the deeper character stuff, the adults will get that because they’ll be the ones going, ‘Oh, I know what that feels like,’” Eshenbaugh said.

With songs like “Freak Flag,” “Who I’d Be” and “I know it’s Today,” a broad spectrum, from comedic ensembles to more intimate ballads on self-reflection, the play aims to appeal to both children and adults.

“The music really brings out the story so much more than the movie,” said Landon Odon, who plays Donkey. Odon said he thinks the characters are portrayed in a more in-depth way in the musical than in the movie. But for him, the comedic relief and randomness his supporting character offers initially attracted him to the part of Donkey.

“I really enjoy being as random as possible and trying to make people laugh, so when I got casted as Donkey I was like, ‘That’s going to be amazing,’” he said.

Even the antagonist, while seemingly mean-spirited, is given more background and humorous lines in the musical than the movie.

“I play Lord Farquaad, and really I think everyone in the show is looking for something, and he wants to be king, that’s what he wants,” said Brandon Alan Gaunt, who play Lord Farquaad.

Farquaad being so short in stature, Gaunt plays him on his knees wearing knee pads through the entire play, including during choreographed musical numbers.

“I saw the Broadway version, and that Farquaad just kills me. He’s hilarious and just so animated, and there’s so many ways you can take that character,” he said. “It’s hilarious. One scene he’s an evil dictator and the next he’s excited about a boy band at his wedding, so it’s the variety that I get to play that’s my favorite part.

“Farquaad gets a lot more screen time in this. He gets two songs, they’re not really familiar from the movie. Also there’s a revelation about Lord Farquaad’s father that you don’t really get in the movie,” Gaunt said.

The show will begin running at the J. Harley Bonds Career Center, 505 N. Main St., this weekend. Show dates are Oct. 17-19 and 24-26. Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

“There’s so many funny parts happening right after the other, but then I guess it does come with a serious not at the end of one of the acts where Shrek’s really in his head all the time,” Odon said. “But it makes people look at themselves differently because all these are really just giant, exaggerated people. There are real people in real like, and you think, ‘Wow, maybe I shouldn’t judge people sometimes.’”

Tickets for the show are $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors and $7 for children 5 and younger, and can be purchased at | 877-2076

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