Shrek the Musical
book & lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
music by Jeanine Tesori
directed by David F.M. Vaughn
3D Theatricals at Plummer Auditorium, Fullerton/through August 4
Redondo Beach, Performing Arts Center/August 9-11
Never having seen any of the Shrek films, I come totally unbiased - I guess green fits best here - to this material. One thing I can say for sure, I love fairy tales and any re-imagining of them, provided the characters remain true to form. In Shrek the Musical, the updating of traditional icons like Pinocchio, the Pied Piper, the Wicked Witch, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Three Pigs, and the Three Blind Mice, to name but a few, is quite appealing stuff - and as to newly arrived Shrek, his sidekick the Donkey, Princess Fiona, Lord Farquaad... and Gingy Puppet ...they are sheer delight! Via a big delicious production from 3D Theatricals, Shrek is a fun, inspirational and imaginative romp for children young and old.
One cannot dismiss a comparison to Beauty and the Beast, but Shrek's ending where beautiful does not necessarily mean pretty takes it a giant step away from perfection. This update is bound to please those who crave a more realistic, believable flavor. Ogres deserve happiness as much as anyone else, so why shouldn't Princess Fiona be on an equal plane with Cinderella, Snow White and Rapunzel? And why shouldn't Shrek have his crack at Prince Charming? This is a cartoon about the underdog, and those with more grounded - even nastier - habits get their turn in the spotlight too, but certainly do not persevere with esteem.
Shrek. He sings and acts beautifully, offering a performance of great dimension. Brandon Armstrong as Donkey is loaded with pizazz and devilishly fun charm, and Melissa Wolfklain is not only adorable, but also comically and vocally scrumptious as Fiona. David F. M. Vaughn, the original, once more tears up the scenery every time he's on stage as Farquaad. How many men do you know that can walk on their knees? Following him is a tall order, if you know what I mean! Amber J. Snead as Mama Ogre/Mama Bear and Emily King Brown as the Wicked Witch sizzle with their dynamically mesmerizing voices, and they are but two fine examples of the glorious 18-member ensemble of actors who portray the fairy tale characters, some essaying more than one role. Bravo to each and every one!
At times the show is reminiscent of Monty Python's Spamalot in its silliness, as, for example, in the "Travel Song" where the cow jumps over the moon, but its overall drive and tone are most definitely American. Disney could not have done it better, and no fairy tale or kids' story is spared satirically; I thought I even caught a sentence right out of the film Babe: "That'll do ... that'll do!" There are also delightful attacks on The Lion King, Wicked with strains of "Defying Gravity" and on Jennifer Holliday and Dreamgirls with bars from "I Am Telling You I'm Not Going". Hilarious satirical moments! Many moons ago fart jokes were considered infantile, crude and tacky - especially for a man and a woman to top each other while on a date? - but now...well, what can I say, Shrek puts a grossly funny come.what.may laissez-faire perspective on it all, just as Ronnie Regan's "One for the gipper" did some years back for those adults still craving childlike humor...
Tom Buderwitz's scenic design is stellar in and out of the swamp and Kate Bergh's colorful costumes are at their flashiest with "The Ballad of Farquaad" and in perfectly singling out each fairy-tale character; Justin Greer's choreography dazzles as in "Freak Flag", and Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire have created a score that is bright, happy and pure joy. Especially tuneful and contagious are "Big Bright Beautiful World" and "Story of My Life".
From start to finish Shrek the Musical is high on heart and entertainment - an unqualified charmer. So why find fault? Even a gingerbread cookie sings, dances and delivers the goods. Now that's imagination! It's got my vote.
Don't miss it!
5 out of 5 stars