‘Message of acceptance’: Hartselle High brings Shrek, his friends and tormentors to stage

By Deborah Storey  

For the Enquirer  

Even big, fat, green ogres need love. 

That’s just part of the message of Hartselle High School’s production of “Shrek The Musical” this week. 

More than 100 seventh- through 12th-grade students and community volunteers have been working countless hours on the production since January. In addition to the beloved trio of Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey from the 2001 DreamWorks movie starring Mike Myers, the musical includes familiar fairy-tale characters like Humpty Dumpty and the Three Bears. 

“The music is so good and entertaining, and the kids that I have are just doing a phenomenal job right now,” said director and school drama teacher Lisa King. 

When considering whether to perform the play, she was impressed with the script and its “message of acceptance.” 

In the story, the loner Shrek’s swamp home has been invaded by fairy-tale characters sent by scheming Lord Farquaad. Shrek and the wisecracking character simply called Donkey set out to confront him. As part of a deal, Farquaad sends Shrek to rescue a princess in a tower. 

The musical version is very similar to the movie plot, King said, with adjustments for the stage. 

“Shrek is hiding because he doesn’t want to be tormented,” King said. “Fiona just wants to be normal. Lord Farquaad bullies people to compensate for his challenges that he faces. 

“At the end they realize it’s OK to be different,” she said. “It’s the differences that make everything so wonderful. We don’t all want to be the same.” 

In the show, Humpty Dumpty’s costume is huge. Lord Farquaad is on his knees the whole time. Many of the kids are dancing in “crazy” costumes. 

“We’re trying to make those fairy-tale creatures come to life on the stage as best we can” with costumes, wigs and makeup, said King. 

“I have about 60 kids in the cast and about 40 kids in the different stage crews that do hair and makeup, costumes, lights, sound — all the different aspects of the theater,” she said. 

Hartselle High senior Kooper Rooks calls Shrek “the most complicated character I’ve ever played.” 

That’s saying something, even for an 18-year-old. The school drama troupe president has been performing since the fifth grade and has competed in regional and even national theater competitions. 

Rooks said Shrek displays certain emotions while feeling something else inside — tricky business for an actor. He loves Fiona and Donkey but can’t show it, for example. 

“Although he seems annoyed at first, deep down, secretly he loves to have other people in his life that actually care about him,” said Rooks. 

The Shrek costume adds another complication for a performer. Rooks wears a big hood-type covering called a cowl over his head and neck, King explained, and prosthetics for his nose, chin and cheekbones. 

“We’re trying to figure out where the mic is going to go,” King said with a laugh. 

Rooks said he also wears pads on his belly and rear, a tunic, plaid pants and shoulder pads. 

Add to all that the Scottish accent the character requires — and singing. 

“It was hard at first,” Rooks said of the accent, “but once I got it, I feel like that’s when I started to embrace it and become Shrek.” 

King said that anyone who liked the movie version will enjoy this family friendly stage show. 

“I feel like it’s something that we can all relate to,” King said. “It just has such a good message of acceptance.” 

Now that he knows Shrek inside and out, Rooks sees another layer to his tale. 

“It says you can be the hero of your own story no matter what you look like, regardless if you are an ogre or Prince Charming,” Rooks said. “You don’t have to be beautiful to be the hero.” 

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