Shrek: The Musical, a Farewell to the Tahoma Junior High Drama Program
After 23 years of directing and creating plays for the Tahoma Junior High drama program, Earlene DeLeon will be saying goodbye, but not in the way most will think. Instead the program will now be only limited to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders rather than six-ninth. Next year’s ninth graders are this year’s eighth graders meaning that DeLeon will be saying goodbye to half of her group. Being a viewer at the last show, it was definitely a tearjerker.
The play itself was magnificent and those who were early enough to not get kicked out will forever be lucky because the experience was delightful. I was only around to see the white cast, which had Jake Bennett as Shrek (grade 8) Madelyn Fickel as Fiona (grade 9) Kamry Christensen as Donkey (grade 9) Ethan Buck as Farquaad (grade 9) and Elsa Miller as the Dragon (grade 9). This was a very talented group and I am proud to say that I go to school with them, as I watch from below.
Donkey (Christensen) was a crowd favorite, everyone in the crowd would not have noticed that Donkey, a male character, was being played by a young teenage girl, people chuckled as they read Christensen’s Who’s Who, “If a white teenage girl can impersonate a black, male donkey, then girls, you can do anything with lots of hard work and a good attitude.” She was just as energetic as the Donkey in the movie and the Donkey in the original play. She was even a favorite amongst the cast!
Madelyn Fickel, who has been in the program all four years, had her spot on stage as the lead. She went out of her comfort zone and delivered a perfectly, imperfect Princess Fiona. She gave a new meaning to triple threat goofy, lighthearted and loveable. Instead of being the super proper princess that Fiona portrayed in the movie, she instead portrayed as more of a lonely and kind of bipolar character who was much more believable and much more fun to watch. We could only image how we would be if we were locked in a tower for 8,423 days. She said, “I was super excited and felt like my dream came true,” when she was first casted. Well congratulations Madelyn, we hope to see you in future plays.
The character that the play was named after, Shrek, was played by Jake Bennett, an eighth grader who was absolutely hilarious on stage. We missed the Scottish accent but, instead was given a loveable character who had some issues of his own, like being left on his own at age seven. I asked him how he felt on stage and he simply said that it was not uncomfortable, just hot in his costume, but he had a fan backstage and a lot of Gatorade. He played a very angry character but showed a nicer side when it came to the princess and we all just knew that it was love – character love I mean.
Another crowd favorite was nobody other than Lord Farquaad who was played by freshman, Ethan Buck. The ironic thing is, Ethan is the tallest person ever playing the shortest. He says that it was difficult for him to sing and dance as he was on his knees with his fake feet strapped to him by what I could only guess was duct tape? Nonetheless, he had a blast playing the character and enjoyed making people laugh, as he would fluff his hair. His favorite song to perform was “What’s Up Duloc” at the beginning of the play where he first learned about the princess. He was very big and almost flamboyant as he would sing with high-pitched tones and flipped his hair as he talked about his future queen, it was easy to say, that everyone loved him.
We finally have the Dragon, a character many forget while watching the movie or even the play (which you can find on netflix) but she sure wasn’t easy to forget while watching this performance. Elsa Miller, a freshman owned the stage as she performed her solo. She had been in this play before, as just a fairy tale creature and when she was first casted, she was ready to breathe fire. She was not nervous to perform but was more excited and even began remembering her lines the day after they were given as if it was a routine. The song “Forever” was a very interesting song to listen to as her voice goes from anger to love as she quickly fell for Donkey’s charm. Elsa’s voice was so beautiful and powerful that people across the street were probably bobbing their heads and dancing while she took over the stage. She also plans to stick with the program to see where it takes her.
Since I was only around to see the white cast perform, I would not be able to tell you about the red, however I was able to talk to two cast members, Crina Snyder, who played Fiona and Elexis Love, who played the dragon. This was Crina’s first year and while being casted as the lead was a huge shock for her, she also felt honored because, “I was being counterparts with Maddi, it just made me so happy, it was unreal.” She plans to stick with the program as well because the people were just so amazing and she built so many friendships along with it. Elexis is a very talented singer. She is in choir and jazz choir and has a beautiful voice, so her playing the dragon is not surprise. “When I was casted as the Dragon I was super excited because I knew I was going to sing ‘Forever’, and I worked so hard on it because it was such a difficult song, but it all worked out in the end!”
As amazing of an experience as this was, no one will forget the speech that Earlene DeLeon said at the end of the play where she said goodbye to not only the ninth graders, but also the eighth graders as well, for the drama program will no longer have the freshman included because of the new high school that is being built. She said her farewells, but she was not the only one saying goodbye, Fickel, Snyder, Love, Miller, Christensen, Buck and even Crina’s twin sister Jordan came up and surprised the directors with an excerpt of the song “For Good” from Wicked causing everyone is the crowd, but more importantly moved DeLeon, Carrie Sleeper-Bowers and Sheilla Hagedorn (the other directors), to tears. It was such a heartwarming moment for all of us and it was amazing to experience all of this in just one night. “It was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I met my best friend by doing this show. I’m so glad I auditioned because everyone is just so genuinely kind and no one judges you for any reason. Being there at rehearsal, it feels like home to me, I feel so safe there and I wouldn’t trade any of that for the world,” said Crina Snyder. “The play for me has been an experience of a lifetime, I have done this all four years and I don’t know where I’d be without it, honestly. Like how Mrs. DeLeon has made me love theater that much more as well as Sheilla and Ms. Bowers who walked me through learning how to act, how to sing, how to dance and how to reach my full potential. That’s the best gift I could ever ask for,” Elexis said. “I have been doing these plays for about 4 years and I have to say that this is the best experience I have ever had. I love all my cast members and my very talented counterpart! I do theatre because I love it and it makes me, and others happy. You can just be yourself and not care what others think. I encourage people to join because it is truly so incredible and memorable!” said Madelyn. Finally, Earlene DeLeon sends us off with final words, “The actors that came to us with so much talent, excitement and such strong work ethics that it was a truly a joy to work with each and every one of them. Without these qualities, there is no way that we could have managed to direct 104 students to put on such a fine show for our audiences. It was difficult to say goodbye to half of our group as they enter high school next year – but we send them off with love and confidence that they will excel in every endeavor they continue to pursue.” And all we have to say is well said.