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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Pierrepont Students will Perform "Shrek, Jr."

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

By Jennifer Ersalesi

The Rutherford community is fortunate to have the opportunity to see three different musicals at three of the district's schools during the school year. To close out the productions this academic year, Pierrepont School students will present, "Shrek, Jr." the musical on June 2nd and June 4th.

This is Rutherford spoke with the Directors, Mr. Matthew Vaccaro and Ms. Courtney McManus and the Musical Director, Ms. Aaliyah Jordan, as well as a few of the actors, to learn more about this upcoming musical performance.

TIR: This year, the students at Pierrepont School will be performing "Shrek, Jr.". Many people are familiar with the movie "Shrek", what can you tell us about this musical adaptation of the movie?

Matthew Vaccaro: The movie is an iconic hit that most kids will know. The musical does its best to capture all the bits of humor in the movie while adding depth to the characters. The music is used to drive the characters' emotions in a way that the movie does not. The way the songs allow you to learn more about the characters while also infusing humor into them is wonderful to watch. Some songs are cut from the Broadway production to the Jr. version of the show, but the heart is still there.

Courtney McManus: Shrek the Musical Jr. stays true to the heart of the 2001 movie. What we love most about this musical is that the writing team has taken these well-known characters and made them even more relatable. Still expect a good laugh!

TIR: How long have the students been preparing for this show?

MV: This is the first year we did an entire 8-month musical season. We have always started in late February, but we knew what show we were doing before this school year and figured we could get a jump on it. It has been a fantastic process, and the cast has been ready to put this show on for several weeks, which is what we were hoping to get from doing a full-year show.

CM: We held auditions in early October this year, the earliest we've held them yet. This gave us time to spread out our rehearsals and for the students to dive into learning their characters.

TIR: What has been most rewarding about directing this show?

MV: Watching the students grow as the year progressed. Each student is so talented, and watching them grow feels incredible. We have some students who have never been on a stage, but you would never know it with how hard they have worked and how mature they have become in their young theater careers. I have loved theater since I was young, and knowing I get to help young students grow their love and passion for theater is what it is all about.

CM: I love that this musical is many of our students' first experience with theater. My favorite part of directing youth theater is nurturing a love of performing and appreciation for this art form.

TIR: Is there a particular song or scene that you believe the actors are most excited to perform?

MV: There are so many this year that this cast loves. I would have to think "Freak Flag" or "I'm a Believer" is the group's favorite. They are two iconic numbers with high energy and fantastic choreography. I am personally excited about the final number in the show. A line that has resonated with me since we started this process is, "We are different and united, we are us, and we are you." Especially today, that line means so much and has been at the heart of this show. Be yourself and accept people for who they are.

CM: They are very excited about the songs "Freak Flag" and "I'm a Believer". These are both feel-good numbers with a lot of dancing.

Sixth grader, CJ Ackermann, who plays Lord Farquaad, told TIR, "My favorite part of the show is hands down the wedding scene. I love this scene because everyone in the show is in it and I enjoy my not so little temper tantrum at the end of the scene."

Sixth grader, Jake Gonzalez, who plays Shrek, told TIR, "My favorite part of the show has to be the wedding at the end, because everyone’s in it and it’s a culmination of everything these characters have been working towards. I also like the song "This Is How a Dream Comes True" because of its not-so-subtle comedy in the background and the amazing vocals in the foreground."

Fifth grader, Mia DiLorenzo, who plays Fiona, told TIR, "My favorite part of the show is "I Know It's Today". It is the first time that my character appears on stage and it's one of my favorite songs to sing."

TIR: What are you most excited for the audience to see?

MV: All of it. We have some fantastic things happening that make you forget the kids on stage are 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. We have unique sets, prosthetics, choreography, vocals, and acting in an Elementary School show. It will be something you don't want to miss.

CM: This group has developed a chemistry that is palpable on stage. They have a lot of fun on stage together. We have strong actors in every grade level who really get to showcase their strengths.

"My favorite part of being in Shrek Jr. is being able to experiment with this amazing part. I don’t usually play roles that are just plain mean and nothing more. It’s such a fun part and I’m glad I was cast as Lord Farquaad," CJ Ackermann explained.

"I have enjoyed getting to know the cast and befriending my fellow thespians, as well as really stepping into my character and having everyone recognize me as Shrek. It’s been a really fun and educating experience being a part of this amazing production. I am thankful for supportive directors like Mr. Vaccaro, Mrs. McManus, Ms. Jordan, and Mrs. Bilbao that helped me, and the motivation I get from my fellow cast. We are excited for June 2nd and 4th!" Jake Gonzalez explained.

"What I have enjoyed about this experience is working with the amazing cast that I have become so close with. We all work so well together and really do create some theater magic," Mia DiLorenzo explained.

TIR: As the Musical Director for Shrek, Jr., what has been the best part of teaching the actors the music for the show?

Aaliyah Jordan: The best part of teaching the actors the music for the show is hearing the improvement in their voices, not only from last year but also from when we first started rehearsals back in October. It amazes me to see such talent at such a young age! It gets even better when the choreography, acting, and singing all come together and create a masterpiece!

TIR: Which songs do you think are the most fun for the actors to learn?

AJ: The songs that are the most fun for the actors to learn are "Story of My Life" and "Freak Flag". These songs have many cast members singing in them as they are mostly fairytale creatures. Both songs require the fairytale creatures to really portray their characters and they are so fun to watch!

TIR: What are you most excited for audiences to see?

AJ: It is so difficult to pick one thing that I am excited for the audience to see because the talent is out of this world, especially for this age! I think the audience will be impressed by every minute of this show! I am most excited for the audience to see "I Know It's Today". I do not want to spoil anything but this song is a hit and I know that the audience will enjoy it for sure!

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