BWW Reviews: SHREK at SCERA Is Story-Driven, Endearing Fun

"Shrek the Musical" is a crowd-pleasing smash at Orem's SCERA Center for the Arts.

Opening its indoor season, SCERA tapped its youngest director to bring out the playful charm the musical fable needs. Recent Utah Valley University graduate Chase Ramsey is young but he's no neophyte in discerning the important elements to make "Shrek" great theater and highly entertaining for an audience full of kids and adults.

Ramsey isn't intimidated by the gargantuan scale of the production and capably focuses on the story. "When Words Fail," Shrek's stumbling attempt to find a way to show his love for Fiona, could be a throwaway song. However B.J. Oldroyd's solo is a tender display of his wistful emotions.

As the title character, Oldroyd makes the hideous ogre a cranky beast with a lovable green heart beating within. He's wearing a fat suit and slathered in green makeup but he's still funny and quickly earns not just our sympathy but we cheer him on in his pursuit a bride who he thinks is out of reach.

Madeline Weinberger's Fiona is a stage-commanding tornado of charisma and zest. Her professional-level talent radiates brightly in her powerful and lovely singing along with her wonderful comedic timing showcased. In the Act II opening number "Morning Person," Weinberger's madcap portrayal of the not-so-stereotypical storybook princess is enormously enchanting.

And what would "Shrek" be without his motor-mouth sidekick? Wes Tolman's Donkey doesn't need to force the audience to laugh at his many comedic bits. Instead the mirthful set-ups and punchlines flow naturally. One comedic bit stood out as worthy of mention: Tolman tries to sneak in a lick during the "I'm gonna be on you like a fat kid on cake" line in "Don't Let Me Go." Hilarious.

Though vocally he struggles, Carson Davies easily connects with the audience as the pint-sized Lord Farquaad. Nike Fazulyanov deserves a shout-out for an adorable performance as Young Princess Fiona, joining the impressive Harper McGee as teenage Fiona in "I Know It's Today." That trio and the ensemble's choral numbers display music director David Smith's talent to encourage voices to soar. The choreography by Geoff Reynolds was striking and capably performed by the infectiously buoyant chorus members. When they are having so much fun on stage, you will too.

At times the character voices were stretched too far as to be nearly unintelligible, and some of these same actors in supporting roles need to be reminded to wait for audience reactions, including laughs and applause, to subside before their lines begin. The set design is both overly ambitious with its multiple set pieces and lacks bright colors and vivid imagery of a fantasy world. While still working adequately, costuming is skimpy and subdued to a degree. There were prop flubs (and stunning prop failures) on opening night. Yet these are minor hindrances.

"Shrek" reminds that love can bloom where least expected. And entertaining theater can be sown in unforeseen gardens with a green-thumbed gardener.

Caption: B.J. Oldroyd (Shrek), Wes Tolman (Donkey) and Madeline Weinburger (Fiona)
Credit: Mark A. Philbrick

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