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Ken LongworthShrek: The Musical Jr

THE number seven has been very important in the lives of two of the main characters in Shrek: The Musical Jr – the title ogre and a princess.

Shrek was sent away by his parents on his seventh birthday after being told he was old enough to find his own way in the world.

And Fiona was imprisoned in a tower when she was seven and has remained there because a dragon drives away knights who try to rescue her.

The two discover that they share more than a dislike of the number seven when circumstances lead them to meet in this colourful story.

The animated musical film Shrek was a worldwide hit when released in 2001 and was adapted for the stage in 2008.

The success of that show led to it being further adapted in 2014 to a 70-minute junior version for young performers.

Hunter Drama is staging Shrek: The Musical Jr with a predominantly teenage cast of 56 as a school holiday attraction at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre. There will be six performances over three days from September 29.

As well as an ogre, a princess and a dragon, the story includes many fairytale characters, including Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf, the Wicked Witch, Peter Pan, the Ugly Duckling, the Mad Hatter, Humpty Dumpty, a shoemaker’s elf and two bears.

The fairytale characters are ordered by a huge dwarf, Lord Farquaad, to leave the area around the royal palace and live in a swamp that has been Shrek’s home since his parents sent him away.

With the help of a friendly Donkey, Shrek heads to the royal palace to confront Lord Farquaad, who plans to become the country’s king, and meets Princess Fiona along the way.

The pair share some of the bright songs by David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tersori.

Tom Rodgers, who plays Shrek, said he had added a human side to the ogre so that he is more than a cartoon character.

He’s also had the tricky task of learning to walk normally while fitted with the ogre’s big stomach.

Phoebe Bayliss and Maisie Owens, who are alternating as Fiona, see her as more feisty than a typical Disney princess because she has been locked in the tower for so long.

Charlie O’Connell, as the Donkey, has a lot of energy, but also wants attention from those he meets.

And Rory Pollock, the tale’s Lord Farquaad, said he sees himself as the next big thing, in more ways than one.

Shrek: The Musical Jr, directed by Daniel Stoddart, has shows at the Civic on Thursday, September 29, at 10.30am and 2pm, and on Friday, September 30, and Saturday, October 1, at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets: $40 to $55. Bookings: 4929 1977.

A ‘HUMAN SIDE’: Tom Rogers as Shrek and Charlie O’Connell as his friend Donkey. Picture: MARINA NEIL

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