BWW Reviews: Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre's SHREK: THE MUSICAL is an Entertaining and Enchanting Modern Fairy Tale...with Fart Jokes
The final production of the 2013 Shenandoah Summer Musical Theatre season Shrek: The Musical is an entertaining and enchanting modern fairy tale filled with wildly comedic moments and, of course, fart jokes. The regional premiere of the musical is the closing production for the summer musical theater company.
Shrek: The Musical follows the script and story of the well-known 2001 movie almost identically, except for the addition of a comical back story about Lord Farquaad's origins and lineage. Shrek (Michael Misko) is a misjudged ogre who lives alone in a swamp.....until tyrannical ruler Lord Farquaad (Zac Ostrowski) evicts all of the "reject" fairy tale creatures in the kingdom of Duloc (including the Three Bears, the Three Pigs, Pinocchio and many others) onto Shrek's muddy home. In order to win back his land, Shrek must rescue Princess Fiona (Rachael Haber) from a dragon guarded castle with the help of his wise-cracking donkey (Tom Sweitzer). However, the stage show is packed with cleverly placed references and witty spoofs of well known Broadway musicals, including The Lion King, Dreamgirls and Wicked, which provided an additional layer of comedy to the already hilarious musical.
Michael Misko was fantastic as the title character. He perfectly embodied the cranky but loveable ogre with a powerful baritone voice and and showed off some impressive comedic and dramatic acting skills. The Scottish accent was flawless and a perfect homage to Mike Myer's famous dialect while still remaining Misko's own individual performance. His performance at the beginning of the Act I Finale trio, "Who I'd Be", was absolutely phenomenal and possibly the best song in the production.
Rachael Haber was a delightfully awkward and adorable Princess Fiona. Haber displayed wonderful comedic timing, an impressive vocal belt and fantastic tap-dancing skills in her Act II opening number "Morning Person". Her zany portrayal of the not-so-stereotypical storybook princess was absolutely enchanting. Particularly entertaining was a belching and farting one-upmanship contest between Shrek and Fiona in Act II that displayed both actors' sense of comedic timing and, oddly enough, romantic chemistry. Rena Kornreich deserves a special shout-out for an adorable and heart warming performance as Young Princess Fiona, joining talented singer and actress Christina Kidd as teenage Fiona in the trio "I Know It's Today".
Zac Ostrowski was perfectly cast as flamboyant villain Lord Farquaad. His portrayal was hilarious and Ostrowski displayed exactly the right amount of hugely old-fashioned over-the-top melodrama for the tiny villain. Ostrowski showcased excellent comedic timing and watching the lanky performer maneuver around, dance and even participate in a kick line while on his knees was truly a highlight of the performance that left the audience helpless with laughter.
Although he made a valiant effort, Tom Sweitzer was the weakest lead of the four principal characters. His smooth and suave Act II number "Make a Move" was entertaining, but his performance lacked some spontaneity. Sweitzer tried much too hard to imitate Eddie Murphy's vocal performance from the original Shrek film and tried to push or force the audience to laugh at his many comedic bits instead of letting the jokes and hilarious set-ups and punchlines flow naturally.
The musical was vastly entertaining thanks in part to the delightfully quirky ensemble. Some standouts included Josh Campbell, who displayed the perfect character voice as Pinocchio, Allison Petrillo as the adorably dorky Shoe Maker's Elf and Matt Lincoln-Bugg as the frustrated Big Bad Wolf, who had a wonderfully hilarious "coming out" moment (literally) in Act II. Kelsee Sweigard also provided amazing offstage vocals for the powerful, onstage, love-hungry dragon puppet (reminiscent of an Audrey II puppet and performer mechanism in Little Shop of Horrors). The set for Shrek was charming and parodied traditional fairy tale or woodland sets. However, complicated onstage transformations for the leading actress from human to ogress and the climax of the show, involving a puppet devouring a certain human, need a little more technical work.
The Shrek: The Musical ensemble features Jeremiah Jones, Toshi Calderon, Courtney Hostetler, Lara Treacy, Patrick Rose, Bryce Wagner, Leah Wedge, Anne Norland, Mara Lucas, Cassidy Watkinson with Tieman O'Neil as Young Shrek, Carolyn Coulson as Mama Ogre/Mama Bear, John Baker as Papa Ogre/Papa Bear, Morgan McDowell, Tanner Pippert and Frankie Ramirez as the Three Little Pigs, Rafael Martinez-Salgado as Peter Pan, Kimberlee Ward as the Ugly Duckling, Ali Foley as the Sugar Plum Fairy/Gingy, Nell Komlos as Humpty-Dumpty, Whitney Warrenfeltz as the Wicked Witch, Leah Coconides as Baby Bear, R.C. Hiers as Captain of the Guard and Spencer Lawson, Joey Santangelo and Alex Barrett as Guards/Knights.