BWW Reviews: Fort Bend Theatre's SHREK THE MUSICAL is Splashy and Amusing
Not really a fan of the film, I had low expectations for the plot of the musical; however, I found that David Lindsay-Abaire's book gives the familiar tale a clever and much appreciated facelift. The way he writes this story gives the familiar tale a lot of earnest heart, which easily wins over even the most cynical of observers. He takes a step away from the overdone grotesque aspects of the film adaptation and crafts a family-friendly tale with rich themes that celebrate diversity, forming quality friendships, and tackle the psychological pain of abandonment. For fans of Shrek's more sophomoric humor, it's still present in the musical. It's just been scaled back, making the theatrical presentation work on both the surface level and on an intellectual level. The Book and Lyrics fully embrace the satiric qualities audiences associate with Shrek as well, adding in deftly humorous references to WICKED, Puss in Boots, THE LION KING, the 1995 film Babe, ONCE UPON A MATTRESS, DREAMGIRLS, GYPSY, and LES MISERABLES.
Tarra McCain as Director and Maury Marlowe as Assistant Director have coached the cast to embrace the characters' absurdities and individualities. Many of the character portrayals exist on this stage in much the same way that they do in the popular film series. This is especially true in regards to the chorus of banished fairytale creatures who get a handful of lines here and there. A majority of their work is put into expanding the characters of the four leads, ensuring that each one finds a way to affect the audience during the performance.
Choreography by Jessica Chasin and Debbie O'Donell is fairly minimal with the exception of the rousing tap routines during "Morning Person" and the fabulously funky dances that fill the stage during "Freak Flag."
Chris Bryant's portrayal of the titular character has just the right amount of prickle to quickly distance him from the other characters. As he warms to Donkey and falls for Fiona, Chris Bryant competently peels back the layers of Shrek's metaphorical onion. He emulates Mike Meyers Scottish brogue for the character; however, in last night's dress rehearsal it was not always consistent. The accent slips away when Chris Bryant sings and when he is required to become loud or even more animated. When signing he brings a sincere charm to his character, which makes songs like "Travel Song," "I Think I Got You Beat," and "This Is Our Story" all the more entertaining. His strongest performances were his captivating take on "When Words Fail" and a his sensitive reprise of "Big Bright Beautiful World."
Basking in the spotlight opposite of Chris Bryant's Shrek is JosH Clark's hyperactive, hysterical, and scene stealing rendition of Donkey. He keeps the character colorful without it being entirely informed by Eddie Murphy's portrayal of the character. JosH Clark also brings charisma and comedy to amusing numbers like "Don't Let Me Go," "Travel Song," and "Make A Move."
Jessica Griffin's Princess Fiona is filled with lovable sass. Often the character defies gendered stereotypes for princesses by being unambiguously demanding and domineering, which makes the portrayal all the more fun for the audience. Vocally, she is good shape, bringing a pleasant feistiness and zest to her performances of "I Know It's Today," "Morning Person," "I Think I Got You Beat," and "This Is Our Story."