BWW Review: SHREK Kicks Off The 69th Season of Broadway At Music Circus
As parents, we try to instill in our children the idea that it is what's inside a person that counts. Shrek the Musical is certainly an apropos vessel in which to deliver this message when its green, bulbous-nosed, full-of-gas star is a sensitive and clever romantic wrapped up in a gloriously hideous package. Shrek is one of the musicals that have made the successful transition from film to stage. Its Broadway opening in 2008 garnered both Tony and Drama Desk Awards. Its themes of inclusivity, pride, and resilience resonate across all ages and backgrounds, making it a story that withstands the test of time.
Most people know the story of Shrek, a curmudgeonly ogre who prefers to live alone in a swamp. When his swamp is infested with a cadre of fairytale creatures, Shrek is forced to take action. Pinocchio, the Three Pigs, the Three Bears, and company have been banished from the Kingdom of Duloc by the tiny, yet tyrannical, Lord Farquaad. Shrek travels to Duloc to get the deed to his swamp back from Farquaad. On the way he meets Donkey, who immediately christens himself Shrek's best friend. Once there, Farquaad assigns them the Herculean task of rescuing Princess Fiona from a tower that is guarded by a vicious, fire-breathing Dragon. If Shrek can bring Farquaad his new bride then he can have the swamp and his solitude.
The quality that we have come to expect from Broadway at Music Circus is evident in spades, from the set design to the costumes and the principals to the ensemble. Leading the charge to save the princess is Jacob Keith Watson as Shrek in his Music Circus debut. It isn't easy to sing with a huge prosthetic nose and head, but Watson sure makes it look as if it is. His lumbering, crotchety, and eventually heroic Shrek is exactly what I was looking for. Director Glenn Casale plucked him straight out of the DreamWorks movie and set him in the round for all of us to enjoy. Joining him at the hip, falling straight out of the sky and into our hearts, is Andre Jordan as Donkey. Having played the role in the national tour, it fits him like a well-worn glove. Some comedic braying and Donkey-fied dance moves put him well into the unforgettable category for this season at Music Circus. The object of their quest, Princess Fiona, seems to hardly need rescuing. Kristen Beth Williams is a strong, fearless female who can outwit, out-screech, and out-fart any man or beast that comes her way. Steven Strafford does NOT come up short as Lord Farquaad. His slimy condescension makes it easy to hate him while simultaneously loving him for being THAT good. Jennifer Leigh Warren, of the original Broadway casts of Big River and Little Shop of Horrors, brings that famous Broadway belt to the role of Dragon, another character who wants to be valued for who she is inside. A flawless ensemble keeps the audience on its feet with familiar favorites and boundless energy. "Story of My Life," "Freak Flag," and "I'm a Believer" deliver on the feel-good power of music while inspiring us all to value who we are.
Shrek the Musical easily transcends generations. Subtle and clever adult humor melds with fart jokes that the younger audience will find hilarious. The message of beauty within and being true to oneself reaches everyone, regardless of beliefs. Celebration of what makes us unique is truly what makes our country what it is, despite what may be happening here or in the world around us. After all, the fairytale creatures tell us, "What makes us special makes us strong!" Celebrate yourself and those around you by seeing Shrek for Father's Day, PRIDE month, or the start of another much-anticipated season of Broadway at Music Circus and let your freak flag fly!
Tickets for Shrek the Musical start at $40 for kids 4-12 and $45 for adults, and are available by phone at (916) 557-1999, online at BroadwaySacramento.com, or in person at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office, 1419 H Street in Sacramento. Evening performances are Tuesday through Saturday, June 11-15, at 7:30 p.m.; matinee performances are Thursday, June 13 and Saturday, June 15 at 2:00 p.m., and Sunday, June 16 at 3:00 p.m. For more information, visit BroadwaySacramento.com.
Photo credit: Charr Crail