GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The kids musical version of “Shrek Jr.” will be presented at Ridgewood Avenue School on Friday, May 10, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, May 11, at 1 p.m. A cast of almost 200 third- to sixth-graders, from the school, will perform.
The show is being directed by Heather Ballantyne, her fourth at the helm for annual Ridgewood spring productions.
Briefly, Shrek is a mean-spirited ogre who suddenly finds his desolate swamp inhabited by storybook characters forced from their homeland by an equally mean-spirited Lord Farquaad. Hoping to rid his swamp of them, Shrek meets Farquaad whose demands that Princess Fiona be brought to him to marry so he can become king. Shrek finds and falls in love with her, but unbeknownst to him, at nightfall, she becomes an ogress. Because of a misunderstanding, Shrek deserts her on her wedding night. The misunderstanding is resolved, Farquaad is consumed by dragons and Shrek and Fiona live happily ever after as ogres.
It is the most current musical Ballantyne has directed.
“It’s message is to celebrate everyone’s uniqueness,” she said. “But the villain in the show wants everyone to be a certain kind of perfect. It’s a great show for kids.”
Ballantyne chose “Shrek Jr.” because she knew the cast would be big.
“I’ve added a lot of animals and puppets,” she said. “The show was written for about 40.”
All the kids get involved. Whoever is not cast works behind the scenes. There are 23 of these students. Only fifth- and sixth-graders are allowed to work backstage. Third- and fourth-graders help parent/volunteers. There are four stage managers.
“What’s nice is that there are so many ways to be involved,” Ballantyne said.
With schools emphasizing anti-bullying, “Shrek Jr.” is a great show for elementary school children.
“They are turning into young adults,” she said. “Everyone can relate to feeling insecure, not appreciated or even seen. It’s a great message for kids, but sometimes hard for them to understand.”
In old-time fairy tales, Ballantyne said the good characters get to live happily ever after. Older fairy tales are also out-dated when it came to female characters. Ballantyne said modern fairy tales are more empowering and there are no damsels in distress.
“I don’t know if the old fairy tales were teaching us much,” she said. “But this story has a great moral.”
The running time of “Shrek J.” is 70 minutes. There is no intermission and admission is charged.