(*homocinematically inclined)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reel Thoughts Interview: Let Your Freak Flag Wave at Shrek The Musical

“What makes you different makes you strong,” the soulful Humpty Dumpty sings in Shrek The Musical, summing up what the show is all about. Who hasn’t been made to feel bad for being different, and who hasn’t been judged for how they look or act? True, most of us aren’t huge flatulent ogres, but then our friends probably aren’t motor-mouth donkeys, lovesick dragons, princesses-with-secrets or talking gingerbread cookies.

Shrek The Musical, currently on tour, is based on DreamWorks’ hugely popular film and the original children’s book. It tells the story of an ogre who finds his swamp overrun with fairy tale creatures who have all been banished from the kingdom for being odd. When Shrek sets off to rescue feisty Princess Fiona, he gets more than he bargained for. With a book by David Lindsay-Abaire (Fuddy Meers) and music by Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Mille), Shrek is an original take on a beloved classic that kids and grown-ups alike will enjoy.

Jason W. Shuffler loves being a part of the craziness in Shrek. Of his multiple roles, the out performer enjoys playing the Big Bad Wolf the most. Still dressed in Grandmother’s nightgown, Shuffler likes how the storybook villain enjoys cross-dressing. “He’s got this transgender kind of thing going on, which is always fun to play with,” he said. The South Carolina native plays seven roles in the show, most notably the wolf and the Captain of the Guard in short Lord Farquaad’s regiment.

“They’ve done a really good job of translating from the screen to the stage,” Shuffler explained, adding that what makes the film and show so great is how relatable it is for all ages. “Kids love it, but there’s a lot of adult humor that goes over the kids’ heads.”

“Aside from my horribly crass humor of fart jokes,” Shuffler laughed, when asked what his favorite part of the show is. “I love the number “Freak Flag”. It tends to be an anthem across the board, but for me, it’s a great message to take away from the show. It’s the fairy tale creatures singing it, and I love performing it every night. The whole premise of it is “let your freak flag fly”, basically just be who you are, don’t be afraid of being who you are, and stand tall and proud in the person that you are. The fairy tale creatures have been kicked out of their homes and told that they were freaks by Farquaad, and this is them standing up to him.”

He added, “From a personal standpoint, being a gay man, it’s something that we’ve all had to encounter. At some point in your life, you had to stand up and say, “No, I’m going to be who I am and stand tall in that and have no shame.” It resonates with me every night, professionally and personally. Not to mention, it’s a catchy song.” He added, “I consider it an honor to go across America and sing at the top of my lungs this message that I so whole-heartedly believe in.”

So, if you want to dress like a princess or a dragon and let your freak flag fly when you go see Shrek, just know that the cast is with you all the way.

Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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