BWW Reviews: SHREK = derivative drek at Toronto Center for the Arts
Shrek based on the 2001 Dreamworks Animation film and the 1990 picture book by William Steig tells the tale of a fearsome ogre’s quest to rescue Princess Fiona. The story could be the basis for a compelling musical theatre piece. Could be … if the adaptation is done with care by people who understand how to structure a musical, using songs to effectively communicate story and character details.
These are talents that book writer David Lindsay-Abaire and composer Jeanine Tesori have not been able to master. What we see on stage is a pale carbon copy of the film with the performers costumed to look like their screen counterparts.
The tuneless songs by Jeannie Tesori lack any kind of musical hooks that make you want to hear them again. David Lindsay-Abaire’s lyrics help illuminate the situations to a point but the show as presented fails to make any kind of argument as to how this story is enhanced by adding musical numbers.
Given the limits of the material, this cast does an exemplary job of bringing these familiar characters to life. Lukas Poost shows off a great singing voice and makes an imposing ogre. Roaring from beneath layers of foam and latex, he shows Shrek’s loneliness and longing without ever overplaying these elements.
Liz Shivener is a feisty Princess Fiona though she tends to throw some of her lines away. Andre Jordan makes the most of his scene-stealing role as Donkey, delivering a crowd-pleasing performance. In a similar fashion, Merritt David Janes is amusing as the diminutive Lord Farquaad despite the busy stage business he is called upon to deploy.
The original choreography by Josh Prince is recreated for this tour by Chris Bailey and the ensemble dancing has plenty of Broadway zing. The production is directed by Stephen Sposito basing his plan of the work of Jason Moore and Rob Ashford, who staged the original national tour of this show. Sposito keeps the performance moving at a brisk pace that helps smooth out the bumpiness of well-worn path of this story.
The sets – mostly a series of drops representing trees and castle facades create the proper fairy-tale atmosphere. They are adapted by James Kronzer from the Broadway originals by Tim Hatley. The effect of the dragon is particularly well-executed.
As you read all of the credits and see how the work of the people who made the show for New York has been copied and “adapted” you begin to sense the carbon copy nature of this production. It may be a little fuzzy and faded but somewhere in there beats the heart of a giant ogre who just wants to be loved.