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BWW Reviews: SHREK: A Fun Family Night At the Theatre

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The DreamWorks "Shrek" film series has certainly become a beloved classic by children and adults alike. When it came time to adapt the piece for the Broadway stage, its producers ponied up an estimated $30 million on the production - the record holder as the most expensive Broadway production, only recently dwarfed by SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (now in previews) which is hovering around $65 million dollars. The show closed at a loss, and the creative team set about tweaking the property to better play in other markets.

SHREK the Musical tells the story of a "swamp-dwelling ogre who goes on a life-changing adventure to reclaim the deed to his land. Joined by a wise-cracking donkey, this unlikely hero fights a fearsome dragon, rescues a feisty princess and learns that real friendship and true love aren't only found in fairy tales."

Featuring music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, Choreography by Josh Prince and Direction by Jason Moore and Rob Ashford, SHREK the Musical attempts to bottle the magic from the screen and release in onto the stage. The authors and creators are, for the most part, successful in their endeavor. The audience is transported into a fun, wacky, smelly world where a singing Shrek makes you feel right at home.

A large reason SHREK's stage adaptation works is due to the stellar scenic and costume design by Tim Hatley, which immerses the audience in the animated wonder of the film, while expanding on it enough to translate it to a larger medium: Hatley's designs are creative and most effective, bringing familiar and new fairy tale creatures come to live on the stage. One must compliment the design of the dragon - a massive puppet manipulated by several of the cast members - as it is truly a work of art in its current incarnation.

Eric Peterson stars as the infamous ogre, Shrek. Peterson's loud, boisterous performance fits the character, and does not disappoint. "Who I'd Be," a stirring moment of introverted reflection for the green character, is performed beautifully.

Alan Mingo, Jr. is charismatic and lovable as Donkey, while David F.M. Vaughn brings the vertically-challenged Lord Farquaad to new comedic heights. Farquaad's song and dance number "What's Up, Duloc" is a particular crowd-pleaser.

Haven Burton beautifully portrays the quirky Princess Fiona. Burton, who starred as Gingy in the Broadway company, displays a soaring voice that hadn't been adequately showcased in the original incarnation. "I Know It's Today," our first featured moment with Fiona, sees the Princess at three different points of her formative years, and immediately makes you fall in love with the character.

In many ways, the secondary characters are the heart of the show. They've been kicked out of Duloc for being "different," so-called "freaks", and long only to have their own happily ever after. Leading the way is Pinocchio, played by Blakely Slaybaugh, with his (creative) growing nose. Slaybaugh brings the character to life as if he stepped right off the movie screen. The rest of the fairy tale friends ultimately realize that they must be true to themselves, deciding that it's okay to let their "Freak Flag" fly. It is a great message to send to the many children in the audience, many of whom likely attending their first live theatre production.

The show did see a few technical glitches; some sound cues were missed or muddled, and some occasional sloppy spotlight work. In general, though, the local KC crew did a fine job with a technically challenging piece of theatre.

A very poor dragon effect is utilized towards the end of evening, which quite honestly seems like an amateur solution to the script's staging requirements. The effect is particularly disappointing when in the context of the rest of the lush costumes and scenery of the show. Whether due to injury, accident or simply not adapting the number to focus on the performer's strengths, our Princess is left looking awkward during "Morning Person." These defaults are minor, however, and do not take away from the enjoyment of the show.

As a whole, SHREK is a fun family night out at the theatre, which should leave everyone with a smile on their face, and a song in their heads. SHREK is a great introduction to the theatre for children of all ages.

SHREK the Musical plays the Music Hall through Jan.16.

For more information, visit www.shrekthemusical.com.

SHREK the Musical features Joe Abraham, Kevin Boseman, Haven Burton, Holly Ann Butler, Carrie Compere, Emily Cramer, Tyrone Davis, Jr., Sandra DeNise, Scarlett Diaz, David Foley, Aymee Garcia, Brian Gonzales, Justin Greer, Lisa Ho, Benjamin Howes, Alan Mingo, Jr., Madison Mullahey, Mara Newbery, Denny Paschall, Sarah Peak, Eric Petersen, Keven Quillon, Morgan Rose, Jason W. Shuffler, Blakely Slaybaugh and David F. M. Vaughn.

An entirely new musical, SHREK THE MUSICAL is based on the story and characters from William Steig's book Shrek!, as well as the DreamWorks Animation film Shrek, the first chapter of the Shrek movie series.

SHREK THE MUSICAL features a book and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize® winner David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole), music by Olivier Award-winner Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Caroline, or Change), and is directed by Tony Award® nominee Jason Moore (Avenue Q) and Tony and Emmy Award-winner Rob Ashford (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Promises Promises). SHREK THE MUSICAL has set and costume designs by Tony Award® winner Tim Hatley (Private Lives, Spamalot), lighting design by Olivier Award winner Hugh Vanstone (A Steady Rain), sound design by Peter Hylenski (Rock of Ages); choreography by Josh Prince, music supervision by Tim Weil, music direction by Andy Grobengieser, and orchestrations by Danny Troob & John Clancy.

SHREK THE MUSICAL was initiated when Sam Mendes, a big fan of the first Shrek film, suggested the idea of creating a musical to Dreamworks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg around the time the second film was in production. The musical is produced by DreamWorks Theatricals (Bill Damaschke, President of DreamWorks Theatricals and Co-President of Production for Dreamworks Animation) and Neal Street Productions, Ltd. (principals Sam Mendes and Caro Newling).


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