Shrek The Musical JR. at OPS

Image result for shrek jr. the musical

Because I like to occasionally spice things up a bit, a sort-of break in tradition here. Sort of, I say, because I’ve decided this still counts. I’ve just celebrated my five-year anniversary writing this blog. It’s brought me a lot of joy, a fair share of aggravation, and work as the main arts contributor for a national radio program. I’m proud of ALL it has delivered. It’s made me a better writer, a more insightful critic, and given me more tolerance to accept change. And I’m going to change something now. Not eliminate…change. But first–one more for the road.

I began this blog with the intention of it being for film AND theatre. Oh, television worked its way in a little bit occasionally. Music and books too. But mostly, it’s stayed on course for half a decade. As I have for over 30 years. In my younger days, for instance, I would go to the theatre as many as 12 or 13 times a year. When I got older, and busier, it dropped to an average of 8 times, or so. The last bunch of years as a dad? Only 4 or 5–but I’ve insisted on a minimum of that number four. This year, I struggled to reach even that. An earnest attempt to revisit “Hamilton” failed. A night of Off-Broadway with an old friend fell through. Scheduling prevented a trip to Central Park to see another friend in Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida. And the Daniel Craig/David Oyelowo “Othello” sold out in an hour. Attempts WERE made. But a minimum FOURTH trip to the theatre proved impossible this year. So, I’ve decided to stop putting that pressure on myself. This blog has been primarily a MOVIE site…and that’s really what I want. Oh, I’ll continue to cover stage, music, television and books if need be, or opportunity arises. But, from now on, no pressure to visit a quartet per year. I may see 2, 3, or 7. Whatever will be, will be. And that’s that.

But then I realized something. I actually HAD seen a fourth production in 2016. I didn’t count it originally for a variety of reasons, and discretion is going to keep me from listing any full names involved, but this was the very FIRST theatre piece I visited last year, way back at the beginning of March. And that production was “Shrek The Musical Jr.”, performed by the enthusiastic 5th and 6th grade students, of the public school my kids attend in our small town in New Jersey. In fact, I saw it twice. And I had good reason. My 11-year-old son was Papa Bear #1.

You see, in order to accommodate a sizable student body that wanted to be a part of the show, there were multiple Papa Bears. And multiple donkeys. Fionas too. And I believe EIGHT Shreks. Some were better than others, and a few actually gave inspired performances. I was particularly impressed with Henry’s good friend (his first name begins with the letter ‘I’), who made a strong Lord Farquaad #1. Again, I’m not going to name these kids, due to their juvenile status, but a few were exemplary. I also won’t grade this production, outside saying it was a pleasure to watch them perform.

My son (H) made me very proud. Especially when I gave him some advice…and he took it! He had one line in the show. On opening night, he rushed his reading of it, and I gave him the constructive criticism of “slowing down”. You know, no small parts, just small actors…that kind of chat. He knows daddy worked professionally…so he listened. And he pulled it off! On night #2 (closing night), he spoke slower, with more confidence, and in a much clearer voice. I showered him with effusive praise for this accomplishment. He smiled–and I meant it. So, BRAVO, students, teachers and parents. Everyone helped make those March evenings extra enjoyable.

In closing, I plan on seeing some theatre in 2017. Maybe I’ll even reach four visits. I intend to attend the Off-Broadway revival of Sondheim’s “Pacific Overtures” in the spring. But we’ll see. It’s a whole new ballgame as I start the 2nd half of a decade on the blog. Proud papa though has completed one more quartet for the road!


2 comments on “Shrek The Musical JR. at OPS

  1. Love this review Mark, especially as I am directing Shrek Jr this year! (at the school where I teach in Melbourne) To follow local traditions, we will most likely just have one actor for each role, but still plan to have a big cast!

    ps Didn’t know about Pacific Overtures revival, so thanks for that tip!

    • Thanks so much, Simon! That makes 202 productions over the course of 30 years, with a few score before that, probably getting me close to 300 lifetime (I didn’t start counting until 1986). But I have to relinquish pre-set goals to the films now–I reviewed 100 new features in 2015 alone! Who knows what 2017 will bring?

      Ah…good for you on Shrek Jr! Those kids truly have an expert in the director’s chair! Very exciting. And yes, I read about CSC bringing back “PO”, and was very pleased. I love Sondheim, and I’ve never seen a production of this one. CSC did that fine revival of “Passion” a few years back–I believe we BOTH attended that one!


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