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'Get out of me swamp!': Team of talented Burnaby high schoolers bring Shrek to the stage

The drama department at Burnaby North Secondary is getting set to perform its rendition of Shrek the Musical at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts from March 29 to 31.

shrek burnaby

Burnaby North's talented drama department will be putting on a production of Shrek the Musical at the end of the month. (Charlene Agnew/ Supplied)

Everyone’s favourite ogre and ogre princess will be taking the stage in Burnaby next week.

The drama department at Burnaby North Secondary is getting set to perform its rendition of Shrek the Musical at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts from March 29 to 31.

If you’ve had your head stuck in the swamp for a while, and aren’t sure what this production is about, it’s a musical based on the 2001 cult classic animated film Shrek.

The drama team at Burnaby North has been hard at work to get the production to the stage.

“We’ve been meeting three times a week since mid-September,” Burnaby North drama teacher Charlene Agnew told the Beacon.

She said Shrek the Musical was the production of choice because her friend had put on the show a few years back, and had the costumes and props ready to go.

“It’s very expensive to put on musicals. It ranges around … $10,00 to $15,000 and I knew Shrek was good. … I think it would be like a great family [show]. It’s funny. So it was a mix of things. Personally, I always have to like it first. If I don’t like it, then I don’t want to spend six months working on it.”

The show stars ninth-grader Astor Diaz, as the one and only Shrek, and grade 12 student, Roxy Aneculaesei, as Princess Fiona.

Taking on the role of the world’s most famous ogres requires preparation.

For Diaz, that prep came with watching the musical.

Shrek the Musical was one of the only musicals I’ve ever watched,” Diaz enthusiastically told the Beacon.

“How to prepare … I think it’s just like having fun with it. Having fun with the character. … It’s not exactly rewatching every Shrek movie and psychoanalyzing [it].”

Agnew commended Diaz for being “very good at taking on notes” and really working on his craft as he was preparing for the role.

“And so when the …. choreographer and music and myself, when we give him feedback, he works on it. Like I can see the difference in his growth in the character has been impressive.”

As for Aneculaesei, she also watched the musical and studied how Sutton Foster, the actress who played Fiona in the original musical cast, took on the role.

“But then I kinda put my own spin on it,” she said.

“I just wanted to see what choices [Foster] made, what she brought to the character and then seeing what worked and what didn’t.”

Aneculaesei has had experience on the stage before, as she was part of the ensemble cast in Peter and the Starcatcher in eighth grade.

“Roxy is a really good example of someone who’s put in her time,” said Agnew. “She’s done five years of drama class with me and she’s always been a thoughtful, engaged, person in class. So when she came to audition, she nailed it.”

This will be Diaz’s first time in a musical, but he’s had some previous experience on stage as he was enrolled in dance for six years.

“And that takes a little bit of acting, I guess in some kind of very small way. But I’ve been singing for a while. … But this is my first time doing a production of any kind,” he said.

Both Diaz and Aneculaesei were born after the first Shrek film hit theatres in 2001, but its cultural relevance has only grown over the past years.

The Shrek franchise takes the blueprint of classic fairy tales (such as Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella) and totally flips the script, adding comedic duality that appeals to children and adults, and hilarious pop culture references.

And like ogres and onions, Shrek's popularity has a lot of layers to it.

As Hollywood Insider points out, “during the 2010s, a semi-ironic obsession with ‘Shrek’ started online” as a slew of memes and jokes began circulating on the Internet.

Someone even started a massive Shrek-themed festival called Shrekfest and party-themed events like Shrek raves and concerts take place all over the world today. The popularity of Shrek has taken on a life of its own.

Aneculaesei said that she still sees Shrek’s popularity on social media.

“It’s funny because I did watch the movies growing up and I still watch them every once and again, and sometimes I scroll on TikTok and then I’ll see a [video] about Shrek or Lord Farquaad,” she said.

And all that Shrek hype is definitely adding to the excitement before the students take to the stage.

“I’m really excited,” stated Aneculaesei. “It’s my first time actually getting to put on a musical and actually going to perform it so I’m really excited. I think I’m definitely also a bit nervous.”

“Overall, I think it’s gonna be really fun and I think it’s gonna be great,” said Diaz.

“I’m pretty excited for it. … It is a little nerve-wracking because I’ve never been in a musical and this is my first time and I’m the lead and I think I put some pressure on myself because I am in grade 9 and I got the lead and that’s really surprising for me. … But I think it’s a good kind of nervous.”

Agnew added that putting on a musical is “a different beast than a play.”

“They are extremely time-consuming and there’s so much energy that goes into them,” she said.

“So [the students] they have to be really passionate about being part of a production. For me, I always felt that those were my people, these were my family when I was in productions myself and that I never minded the time because I just felt at home.”

The shows run at the James Cowan Theatre at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts from Wednesday, March 29 to Friday, March 31 at 7pm.

Tickets are available via the Shadbolt Box Office in person, by phone (604-205-3000), or online.

Tickets are $15 for students and $18 for adults (prices include the box office service fee).