Thursday, March 03, 2011

Shrek the Musical

SHREK THE MUSICAL delights at Palace

Ian, my 11 year old grandson, one of the kid reviewers who I take to shows which are billed as tween and teen friendly to ascertain how younger audience members will like the offering, leaned over following the curtain call of SHREK THE MUSICAL, and smilingly said, “I really liked that!” Complete with ogre ears on his head, he went on to say that he thought the talking Donkey was “hysterical” and filled me in on how the 30-foot dragon was operated by four puppeteers. He thought that “kids and adults of all ages would have fun at the show,” but should know that “it is very long” (about 2 and a half hours).

I agree with Ian. SHREK, part of the Broadway series, is lighting up the stage at the Palace. It is delightful.

This is not an almost-like Broadway production. The sets, costumes and special effects are all there. According to Gina Vernaci, the Vice President of Theatricals for Playhousesquare, Eric Peterson, who portrays Shrek, gets to the theatre two hours before curtain to get into makeup. It takes 10 trailers, each 53 feet long, to transport the show on each of its moves. This compares to the seven trucks that brought in last month's SOUTH PACIFIC. There are 33 containers of costumes. The typical musical travels with 12. This is not a cheapie production! There is even a full, if sometimes overloud, orchestra.

SHREK has music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. It is based on the 1990 book SHREK! by William Steig, as well as the 2001 DreamWorks film. It opened in New York in December of 2008, after much rewriting and many cast changes, and ran for 441 performances. The touring production has been altered from the original Broadway show with the addition and deletion of songs, a new opening and improved illusions. The biggest alteration is the size and operation of the dragon. It is spectacular, and Carrie Compere, its voice, wailes a new song, “Forever.”

The story concerns a swamp-dwelling ogre who, as a child, was sent away by his parents to find his own path. Big, green and ugly, the belching, gas passer, goes on a life-changing adventure when his land is invaded by a slew of fairy tale characters (e.g., Pinocchio, Wicked Witch, Sugar Plum Fairy, the 3 Bears, Peter Pan, Ugly Ducking and Big Bad Wolf) and by the mean, vertically challenged Lord Farquaad. In order to get his land back, Shrek must rescue Fiona, a cursed lovely princess, fight a dragon, and figure out what to do with a smart-mouthed talking donkey, who becomes his “best friend.” Hey, this is a fairy tale, remember? All in all, the ridiculousness works, and works well. And, yes, there is a happy ending.

The music is infectious. I defy anyone to sit through “I'm a Believer” and not rock and roll in your seat. Other highlights include: “I Know It's Today,” “Who I'd Be,” “Morning Person,” and the hysterical “Don't Let Me Go.”

The cast is outstanding. Eric Peterson (Shrek) has a big voice, a nice touch with comedy, and burps with the best of them. Holly Ann Butler is delightful as Princess Fiona. She lights up the stage and equals Peterson in burping and gas passing. Alan Mingo, Jr. is donkey perfect! Blakely Slaybaugh, complete with growing nose, makes Pinocchio live. David E. M. Vaughn is wonderful as Lord Farquaad.

The choreography and costumes add to the overall delight.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Okay, I'm a sucker for a well staged, fun musical. SHREK fits the bill. I left humming the songs and smiling as many of the kids and adults walked out wearing their ogre ears, proudly stating that they had became believers!