Review: SHREK THE MUSICAL at Robinson Center

This national touring show is an enjoyable, entertaining night of theatre!

By: Apr. 03, 2024
Review: SHREK THE MUSICAL at Robinson Center
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SHREK THE MUSICAL review is written by Guest Writer Dakota Mansfield

The Robinson Center, 426 W Markham St, was once again bustling Wednesday Night, March 27th, as people from all over the state and beyond flocked in the doors to catch a glimpse of the big green ogre we all know and love, Shrek!, this time, singing and dancing to silly, over the top musical numbers that brings the 2001 Blockbuster hit to life in a whole new way! The theatre was littered with kids and adults alike, all donning their Shrek ears (or Fiona ears if you’re team Fiona); the theatre was buzzing with fans of both Musical Theatre AND the Silver Screen who waited anxiously for the show to start! Then, with a swish of the conductor’s baton, the show was off!

Review: SHREK THE MUSICAL at Robinson Center
Nicholas Hambruch as Shrek
Photo Credit @FullOutCreative

The Tony Award winning Shrek the Musical, written by Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire, has been dazzling audiences since its open on Broadway in 2008. Starring Brian d’Arcy James in the title role and Sutton Foster as the fiery Fiona, the show had a very successful 13 month run. Since its close, Shrek the Musical has gone on to captivate audiences in the West End, on National Tours (3 tours to be exact), and even on DVD/Streaming!

Shrek the Musical is a one-of-a-kind, hilarious fairy tale in which curses are reversed, monsters get the girls, donkeys and dragons find love, and princesses are beautiful in all shapes and sizes. Grumpy, gruff, green ogre Shrek lives alone in his swamp. The world is fearful and mocking of him, and he is more than happy to leave the world to itself, in turn. Suddenly, his hermit existence is thrown open, when a group of homeless fairy tale characters — Pinocchio, the Gingerbread Man, the Three Little Pigs, and more — burst upon his swamp, seeking refuge from the persecution of the cruel, vertically-challenged Lord Farquaad. Shrek seeks out Farquaad, who offers him a deal: if Shrek rescues the Princess Fiona (whom Farquaad wishes to marry for her crown), then Farquaad will ensure the return of Shrek’s swamp by returning the fairy tale creatures to their homes. In a desperate attempt to regain his swamp’s hermetic piece, Shrek enters the world for the first time in his life. He travels to Princess Fiona’s prison, rescues her from a fire-breathing dragon, and then – scariest of all – is forced to get to know the princess as he tries to bring her back to evil Farquaad. To the determinedly unsocial ogre’s dismay, Fiona is very different from what he expected a princess to be. She may even provoke Shrek’s most novel experience yet: Love. With dazzling sets, whimsical puppetry, high energy dance numbers, and laughs by the minute, Shrek the Musical transforms the contemporary children’s book and popular animated feature film into a stage musical that is sure to entertain and make audiences believe in happy endings for all.

Review: SHREK THE MUSICAL at Robinson Center
Jamir Brown as Pinocchio
Photo Credit @FullOutCreative

I want to start this review out by saying I am a HUGE fan of Jeanine Tesori’s compositions and musical works (Fun Home; Caroline, or Change; Thoroughly Modern Millie; Violet), and Shrek the Musical is no different! From the time I heard the Original Broadway Cast (OBC) recording, and then seeing the filmed staged production, I was HOOKED! The flashy costumes, the spectacular sets, the makeup/prosthesis work, the choreography…everything about Shrek had me hooked. I didn’t listen to another musical for almost six months. Needless to say, I was VERY excited about seeing this show LIVE and IN PERSON! I had seen one community theatre production of it (one of my theatre friends, and co-founder of Actor’s Theatre of Little Rock, Mark Burbank was the director) and it was full of so much charm and talent, so I was just ecstatic to see it live again!

Review: SHREK THE MUSICAL at Robinson Center
Nicholas Hambruch as Shrek & Cecily Dionne Davis as Princess Fiona
Photo Credit @FullOutCreative

The staging for this one was different than the usual Broadway show or touring production that I’ve seen pictures of in the past! Upon further research, I found that at the start of the tour, creators Tesori and Abaire felt the show needed to be updated, be made fresh for the newer generations of theatre lovers. This change not only came with just new staging, but a new set, new costumes, new choreography, and new writing! Several lines were updated and several characteristics from characters were updated to make them more related and less derogatory. Several characters were also revamped to accommodate the new staging and overall concept of the show. Shrek’s ogre parents, as well as young Shrek and young Fiona were played by actors using puppets/ventriloquist heads! It was a very interesting concept and really helped tie in the “storyteller” aspects of the show. The largest change that was the hardest to accept was Farquaad’s height. I do understand the reasoning behind changing this, and after the initial reaction, I didn’t mind the change! Overall, the new vision for Shrek the Musical is thoughtful and creative and a great way to keep newer audiences engaged.

Review: SHREK THE MUSICAL at Robinson Center
Timmy Lewis as Lord Farquaad
Photo Credit @FullOutCreative

Where the ideas behind the staging of the show might have changed, the talent that comes with a National Tour held no such change! THEY WERE IMPECCABLE! Each character presented such dynamic choices that each one was real and thought out. It’s easy to make a fairy tale story “hokey pokey” but this cast really delved into the characters to find things to make them fresh and new! My favorite was Fiona, played by actress Cecily Dionne Davis! She brought so much more to the character than anyone I’ve seen before! And, her voice is literally like listening to an angel. Her tonality and vocal placement are so clear! I could listen to her sing the dictionary and pay top dollar to do so! Other stand outs were Donkey, played by Naphtali Yaakov Curry, and Pinocchio, played by Jamir Brown. Both had the audience eating from their palms the entire show! This cast was stacked with incredible talent that it would take another article to talk about each one!

Overall, Shrek the Musical was an enjoyable, entertaining night of theatre! Broadway National Tours never fail to provide a night of fun, enjoyable shows! I am so thankful to The Robinson Theatre for providing Arkansas with a space with which we can enjoy these productions! If you have yet to attend a show at The Robinson, visit their website at https://www.littlerock.com/robinson-center to get more information on their next shows and GET YOURSELF THERE! To see what else Celebrity Attractions is bringing to the Robinson stage, visit their website at https://www.celebrityattractions.com.

Review: SHREK THE MUSICAL at Robinson Center
Tori Kocher as Dragon
Photo Credit @FullOutCreative

SHREK THE MUSICAL tour cast features Nicholas Hambruch (Shrek), Cecily Dionne Davis (Fiona), Naphtali Yaakov Curry (Donkey), Timmy Lewis (Lord Farquaad), Jamir Brown (Pinocchio), Tori Kocher (Dragon), Kelly Prendergast (Gingy/US Fiona), Hope Schafer (Mama Ogre/Wicked Witch/Blue Bird), Riley Johnston (Pig/Knight/2nd Shrek US), Katherine Ellen Paladichuk (Teen Fiona/Peter Pan), Sage Jepson (Wolf/Shrek US), Cynthia Ana Rivera (Mama Bear/ Dragon US), Carson Zoch (Pig/Pinocchio Cover), Demetrio Alomar (Papa Ogre/Papa Bear), Ally Choe (Young Fiona/Ugly Duckling/Gingy US), Leon Ray (Pig), Casey Lamont (Female Swing), and John Cardenas (Male Swing). Harrison Roth is the music director.

SHREK THE MUSICAL features scenic design by Steven Kemp, costume design by Linda Cho, lighting design by Herrick Goldman, sound design by Ben Selke, Puppet Design by Camille Labarre, and Props by Cam Upton, orchestrations by John Clancy, tour music supervision by Chris Fenwick, and casting by Wojcik Seay Casting. The executive producer for the tour is Dani Davis.

Review: SHREK THE MUSICAL at Robinson Center



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