North Caldwell students delight with ‘Shrek the Musical, Jr.

By DEREK ALLEN Staff Writer

NORTH CALDWELL – The show was not “ogre” until the donkey sang at the grades K-6 Gould School, where students sang and danced in fairytale costumes in the West Essex Middle School auditorium for “Shrek the Musical, Jr.”

The play was directed by Pushcart Players, a touring non-profit theater company specializing in arts education for children. Students performed the play twice, on Friday, April 21 and on Saturday, April 22.

“The students have been reading their scripts and practicing their songs since January, and we couldn’t be more proud of the time and effort they have put forth to make this another great production,” said Gould School Principal Chris Cecchetto. “This storyline is particularly applicable to students at this age, who are learning to accept everyone, regardless of their differences.”

The cast was made up of of 40 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, playing the parts of main characters like Shrek, Donkey and Fiona. Students also made cameos dressed as classic fairytale characters like the three blind mice, Peter Pan, the three little pigs, the Ugly Duckling and Pinocchio.

“Theater has a terrific way of providing kids with an outlet from academics while honing essential life skills, like verbal and non-verbal communication, collaboration, and stick-to-itiveness, just to name a few,” said Michelle Rombough, a parent co-coordinator for the play.

The musical begins once upon a time, with a swamp-living ogre named Shrek. One day, he wakes up to find his swamp has been invaded by fairytale creatures, who have been banished from the kingdom by a local Lord. Shrek sets off with his new friend, Donkey, to confront Lord Farquaad, and is instructed to rescue Princess Fiona in order to reclaim his swamp.

Board of Education member Jann Skelton said the musical was filled with laughs, surprises, and lessons about beauty and self-acceptance.

“The students gained confidence as they focused their time and efforts on the production, and that hard work paid off,” said Skelton. “It is an incredible experience to watch the student’s confidence and skills grow in just a few months.”

Superintendent Linda Freda said she was amazed by students who played parts in the musical.

“Watching them grow in talent and perform was fantastic. It was like a Broadway musical,” she said.

Lauren Mills and Jennifer Wilson from Pushcart Players were the Director and Assistant Director of the production. Gould school Instrumental Music teacher James Brady was Music Director. The program was coordinated through the North Caldwell Partnership for Education’s After-School Enrichment Program.