A&E

Last night I was a monster

Paly presents 'Shrek The Musical JR.'

Audiences of all ages can take a trip with a green ogre to the fairy-tale land of Duloc in Palo Alto High School theater department's fall production of "Shrek The Musical JR." The production, directed by Tony Kienitz, opens this Friday, Oct. 2.

An hour-long adaptation of the DreamWorks Animation motion picture, "Shrek Jr." tells the story of the cantankerous but lovable Shrek (played in this production by Declan Flanders) and his excitable sidekick Donkey (Gil Weissman) in their mission to rescue Princess Fiona (Alia Cuadros-Contreras). In return, Shrek expects to reclaim his swamp from unwelcome visitors.

Producer Tanna Herr Kienitz said in choosing a musical, she aimed to find a production that would appeal to all audiences. Additionally, she said, this show promotes a wholesome message.

"The theme is acceptance and accepting people of all shapes and sizes," she said.

"Shrek Jr." is Declan Flanders' first foray into musical theater; he initially tried out for the musical on a whim when he found a friend at the audition. Flanders, a rugby and lacrosse player in the 11th grade, said his athletic background helped prepare him for the role of Shrek.

"I definitely use the influence of those two (sports) to play Shrek," he said. "I play him as more of a jock or a cocky, arrogant athlete."

For Alia Cuadros-Contreras, the story teaches not only acceptance but also self-assurance.

"(Fiona is) not a perfect fairy-tale princess," she said. "She's not conventionally beautiful, but she finds someone she can relate to on an emotional level. I hope that kids kind of see they can be their own person. They don't have to stick to a certain mold."

Cuadros-Contreras, also a junior, said she gravitated to the role of Fiona in part because the same role was played by her personal idol, Sutton Foster, in "Shrek The Musical" on Broadway. The character, she added, is familiar in that her personality is multifaceted and continuously changing.

"As a teenager, I can relate to the sort of thing where you have all these different sides to your personality and all these feelings and emotions that kind of come suddenly," Cuadros-Contreras said.

Her favorite song of the show is the cheery tap-dance tune, "Morning Person," which includes the lyrics, "A brand new start / a palate cleanse / As fresh as lime sorbet / Last night I was a monster / but this morning / this morning / This morning I'm okay."

The show opens with a performance on Friday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m.at the Palo Alto High School Haymarket Theater and wraps up with two more shows at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 4. Herr Kienitz said that area elementary schools have been invited to attend the production.

"We say we love audiences from 5 years old to 100," she said. "I hope they have a great appreciation for theater and the joy of the story and want of go see theater on their own ... in the future."

Muna Sadek is an editorial intern at Palo Alto Weekly.

What: "Shrek The Musical JR." Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the Book by William Steig. Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire Music by Jeanine Tesori. Originally produced on Broadway by DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Productions. Original Production Directed by Jason Moore and Rob Ashford "I'm a Believer" by Neil Diamond.

Where: Palo Alto High School's Haymarket Theatre, 50 Embarcadero Road

When: Friday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 4, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Cost: $5 for students and children, $10 for adults

Info: Go to palytheatre.com.

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