BWW Review: SHREK at the Fulton Delivers Fun Life Lessons
Has there ever been a show with a better message than SHREK: THE MUSICAL? Based on the Dreamworks film, and with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, it's always been a great singalong as well as fable, with a moral to rival any of Aesop's: it's okay to be who you are. And it's far worse to pretend to be what you're not.
But SHREK is long, and usually on at night, and tickets are expensive, so how to have your children learn to let their freak flag fly? It's possible at the Fulton Theatre on Saturdays at 11:00 am, while the Theatre for Young Audiences Version (originally from Kansas City; this isn't a Marc Robin/Curt Dale Clark version), which clocks in at a reasonable hour and twenty minutes, keeps even the smallest of ogres and princesses awake.
Everyone's there, from Shrek and Donkey to Princess Fiona and Lord Farquaad, the arch-nemesis of all that is different, weird, and interesting. In between are everyone from Pinocchio and his nose to the Ugly Duckling and the Gingerbread Man, all exiled from Lord Farquaad's cookie-cutter land of Duloc for failure to be ordinary. The loss isn't in characters but in a few scenes and songs. If you know the show, you'll realize while watching this version just how very long some of Shrek's and Donkey's journeys are in the wilderness, just how much time Fiona spent skipping about in the forest, and that other less consequential moments have been eliminated - you'll notice quickly that there's actually better pacing in this version. Some songs are cut as well. I find it no loss to have the closing "I'm A Believer" trimmed from the show - it just never fits properly - but, alas, Lord Farquaad's big number about his father is also absent, and that's a show-stopper in the right hands.
Director/choreographer Randall Frizado does some lovely work with a talented cast and with the set structure of the Fulton's current production of FOOTLOOSE. Bryon Smith as Shrek the ogre and Michael Roman as Donkey are a joy to watch; they're currently in their third production of this show as the star team, and that the green ears and the donkey heels are now as familiar to them as their own body parts shows. Besides, they're both truly funny, and Smith is a very fine singer indeed. Michaela Bolt is delightful as Fiona, the long-imprisoned princess who starts out waiting for the man of her dreams, but discovers that she and Shrek make a pretty good team who are experts at making rude noises with body parts. Please remember - children love fart humor. And this is full of it. If that bothers you, send them with a friend, because it's almost a second theme of the show. Cory Jeacoma is full of himself, in a very small way, as Lord Farquaad, who makes Napoleon look like an NBA player, and it's a shame he's deprived of one of his two - uh - big - songs in this version, because I could so easily imagine him singing it.
But everything else is here: "Big, Bright, Beautiful World," "I Know It's Today," and of course, "Freak Flag," a veritable anthem of the right to be, and the joy of, weird. There are some songs children and adults should learn by heart, and "Freak Flag" is one of them.
Sure, SHREK is a corny costume piece. Sure it's silly. Sure it's a movie adaptation. Yes, it's true; the not-scary-at-all torture scene tortures the audience with "Do you know the Muffin Man" interrogation. But more than any of those things, it's a life lesson that different is good, and in this version, it's not only palatable to easily-distracted, easily-tirEd Smaller children but fun for parents who may know it already; if they don't, they lose very little if this is the version they come to know. You won't feel as if you walked into a children's show, but merely as if you've walked into a short musical without an intermission. This production isn't a cheat.
At the Fulton through July 16. Beat the summer heat with your children at the Fulton, and let them learn some great lessons the fun way. Visit www.fulton.org for tickets and information.