Review: Not Just a Kids' Show: SHREK THE MUSICAL Full of Inspiration and Whimsy at Music Theater Works

This Shrektacular extravaganza is a testament to the magic that unfolds when world-class talent brings fairy tales to life.

By: Dec. 26, 2023
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Review: Not Just a Kids' Show: SHREK THE MUSICAL Full of Inspiration and Whimsy at Music Theater Works
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Shrek The Musical

In the enchanted world of local theater where imagination meets the stage, the current production of Shrek The Musical by Music Theater Works has left audiences spellbound with its whimsical charm, outstanding ensemble, and breathtaking costumes. Although this musical is certainly fun for the whole family, make no mistake: this show can hold its own with any of the musical hits of today in terms of score, message, and sheer production value. This Shrektacular extravaganza is a testament to the magic that unfolds when world-class talent brings fairy tales to life.

From the very first note to the final curtain call, the versatile ensemble cast whisked the audience away to the magical land of Far, Far Away with their infectious energy and impeccable performances. At the heart of it all was the extraordinary Jordan DeBose, whose portrayal of the lovable ogre Shrek was nothing short of spectacular. Their performance skillfully balanced humor, heart, and just the right touch of ogre-ish charm, captivating the entire audience.  DeBose’s rendition of Who I’d Be at the end of the first act was especially moving, proof of this actor’s mastery of drama as well as comedy. 

The phrase “impeccably cast” comes to mind when considering Dani Pike in the role of our leading lady, Princess Fiona.  Bringing to life this karate-chopping, spunky-yet-charming princess was no small feat, but Pike fired on all cylinders. The wistful number I Know It’s Today featuring the three Fionas (and fabulous performances by Omi Lichtenstein and Shaya Harris) highlighted Pike’s impressive range. Finally, the chemistry between DeBose and Pike as Shrek and Fiona respectively was second to none. Whether breaking a leg (or breaking wind), these two knew exactly how to play off each other.

Eustace J. Williams had the audience in stitches as the hilarious and quick-witted Donkey. The love-hate relationship between Donkey and Shrek was palpable, creating a magical synergy that elevated the entire production. Though Williams’ blatant talent for comedy is present throughout the show, it truly peaked during the side-splitting number Make a Move featuring the Three Blind Mice as his backup singers (and a special note of recognition to Properties Designer Barbara Brown for the ingenious microphones)!

Shrek The MusicalA particular standout was the wickedly funny Michael Metcalf in the role of the villainous Lord Farquaad. While he was onstage, it was impossible to take your eyes off him or stop laughing (while hoping to God he had a pair of industrial strength knee pads). Metcalf’s delivery of this diminutive antagonist was truly a masterclass in commitment to one’s character.

Shrek The MusicalA special note of acclaim must be reserved for the immensely talented actor portraying the Dragon, Madison Denault. Their performance added an extra layer of enchantment to the production, bringing the imperious character to the stage with charisma and flair. The Dragon's scenes were a spectacle to behold, showcasing not only the actor's vocal prowess but also their ability to breathe fiery life into a mythical creature.  The larger-than-life rod puppet of the fabulous pink, green-eyed dragon was a true marvel! There wasn’t a jaw that didn’t drop when her majestic form was skillfully whisked onstage.

Although all the fairy tale creatures delivered bewitching performances, none were so noteworthy as Michaela Shapiro’s Pinocchio. Their ability to master this wooden boy’s unique physical mannerisms while throwing their voice and capturing Pinocchio’s earnest nature was truly delightful. The entire fairy tale ensemble, from Gingy to the Three Little Piggies, was a celebration of the misfits not only in fairy tales but in our everyday lives.  No song captured this as perfectly as Freak Flag, a joyous celebration of the things that make us different – and worthy!  

What truly set this production apart was the mesmerizing array of costumes that adorned the cast. Under the brilliant guidance of costume designer Rachel M. Sypniewski, every outfit was a work of art, from Shrek's swampy ensemble to the dazzling gowns of Princess Fiona. The costumes added depth and visual splendor to each character, creating a magical tapestry that wove the fairy-tale world together.

The crowning moment came during the grand finale, featuring a show-stopping ensemble performance of the uplifting anthem "I'm a Believer." Though the majority of the music in this production is original, it was fun to have a throwback to the film’s iconic soundtrack. The entire cast, resplendent in their fantastical costumes, danced and sang their hearts out, leaving the audience on their feet and cheering for more.

In the end, Music Theater Works’ production of Shrek The Musical was a triumphant celebration of talent, creativity, and pure joy. Every element of this production was state of the art, from the striking lighting design to the dizzying array of fantastic props to the exemplary choreography. The live orchestra was second to none, adding an enriching dimension to the theater-going experience. Director Kyle A. Dougan delivered a masterpiece that exudes excellence from every artistic and technical angle. Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the impeccable hospitality provided by Music Theater Works and the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts Staff. From the moment you walk through the front entrance, you can expect a superb experience.

Although typically thought of as a kids’ show, Shrek is so much more than that. We get the hero’s quest, the princess in need of rescuing, but we also see these characters turning their tropes on their heads and fighting for what it is they really want. Its replete with messages about true love, inner beauty, and fierce friendship. Finally, Shrek is about celebrating the unlikely hero and the misfit in every one of us.  Bravo to everyone involved in bringing this masterpiece to life — it is a shining example of the magic that local theater can conjure.

Shrek the Musical by Music Theater Works runs through December 31st at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets can be purchased here.