BWW Review: SHREK THE MUSICAL is Freakish Fun!
For anyone who has spent their "whole life wishing they weren't so freakin' strange," SHREK THE MUSICAL will raise a flag. For everyone else? They'll love it simply for its silly fun.
SHREK THE MUSICAL, now playing at the Rose Theater in Omaha, is a bigger than life musical romp through swamps and castles for kids of all ages. Based on the 2001 Dreamworks Animation film and William Steig's 1990 book "Shrek!" the story was adapted into a stage production with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaine. SHREK enjoyed a 12 month run on Broadway followed by a national tour and subsequent West End run. This Theater for Young Audiences (TYA) version has been condensed and edited to appeal to children as young as five. It does a remarkable job of retaining the heart of the story.
The story of SHREK centers around an ogre. He is big, green, and has lived in the swamp since his parents kicked him out...on his 7th birthday. Shrek is not very welcoming to company, so when a group of misfits moves into his swamp, he is not pleased. A garrulous Donkey sticks closer than a tick and becomes the sidekick that Shrek never knew he needed. They embark on a journey to demand rights for the outcasts from Lord Farquaad and ultimately to rescue the quirky princess Fiona from her prison tower guarded by a dragon.
Directed by Fran Sillau, the cast is headed by Robbie Stone (Shrek), Lauren Krupski (Fiona), and Nik Whitcomb (Donkey). They do an impressive job of keeping the young audience entertained. They cavort. They sing silly songs. They look ridiculous...Lord Farquaad (Brian Guehring) spends the entire show on his knees covered by his lordly robes and pair of skinny 'legs.' Fiona and Shrek have a flatulence competition (a blowout hit with kids). "I Think I Got You Beat" draws big laughs for Krupski and Stone. While the kids are cracking up over fart jokes and silly physical humor, adults enjoy the many vocal references to other productions like LION KING and WICKED. The characters parade across the stage carrying a replica of Omaha's Woodmen Tower (nice touch, Rose Theater!) There are references to helmet hair, knick-knack paddywacking, and plenty of short jokes.
The kids also love the fog machine and they wave their hands up in the air trying to catch whiffs of it as it drifts out over the audience. They clap along to catchy tunes and don't lose their interest during the 75 minute long show, a testament to the actors' skill.
Sherri Geerdes' costuming and Christopher Rhoton's scenic design work together to bring a kaleidoscope of color to the stage. The tail of the dragon (Sue Gillespie Booton, who is also the choreographer) becomes her microphone. This is one of the best sets I've seen at the Rose.
This show is more about the comedy than the music, but there are some really good voices. The standout for me is Colleen Kilcoyne as Gingy the Gingerbread Boy. The three Fionas (Audrey Saucier, Kelly Kroeger, and Lauren Krupski) who sing the hopeful "I Know It's Today" are no disappointment...it is beautiful. Nik Whitcomb's moves are as smooth as his vocals.
The ensemble of fairy tale characters comes together for a big number celebrating their oddities in "Freak Flag." They sing, "all the things that make us special are all the things that make us strong." So, raise your freak flag and let it fly!
Photo Credit: MJB Photography