BWW Review: It's a Big Bright Beautiful World with SHREK THE MUSICAL
Decorated with Monty Pythonesque humor, the touring production of "Shrek" the musical contains enough tasteful pop culture and Broadway musical references to make the Genie at Disney California Adventure's "Aladdin Musical Spectacular" proud. Creators lifted much of the dialogue from the original film and surrounded it with catchy music and endearing characters.
A cute, short narration created specially for the touring production opens the high energy musical with Shrek the ogre and Fiona the princess recounting the day their parents sent them away, one to face a world of pitchforks and the other to be locked in a tour surrounded by lava and guarded by a dragon. Their paths cross as adults when Lord Farquaad decides to banish the fairytale creatures of Duloc to Shrek's swamp, forcing Shrek on an errand to save Fiona in order to win back his home. As Shrek opens up to the possibility of a big bright beautiful world full of love, Pinocchio and others learn to let their "freak flag" wave.
Desire, dreams, acceptance and love - the themes of the musical relate to audiences through both upbeat songs and more serious moments, not to mention a tap dance or two. Fans of the movie can look forward to a fun time with at least two songs pulled directly out of the movie.
The original Broadway sets are majorly simplified for transportation and finance's sake, consisting mostly of backdrops and moving trees. But the changes serve the illusion of travel, and they work well for what they offer, especially in some wonderful lighting design. The gingerbread man and a humorous scene with Farquaad lifting fake weights replace Farquaad's magic mirror and bathtub, two highlights of the original Broadway production. The fantastical Broadway costumes remain the same, giving unique and colorful takes on favorite fairytale creatures.
The scene in the dragon's keep gets a new song, not nearly as catchy as the original "Donkey Pot Pie." Sung by the dragon and a chorus of imprisoned knights, "Forever" fails to fix the awkward staging and pace of the Broadway version. The first act lags a bit because of it, but the tour comes with a much better puppet design for the dragon, and Courtney Daniels works the dragon's song to its fullest potential with strong gospel vocals.
The touring cast shows stark creativity in making the characters their own. Whitney Winfield plays the self-admittedly "a bit bi-polar" princess, exaggerating Fiona's whims and movements to the audience's delight and carrying incredible vocals throughout. Perry Sook, a noteworthy Shrek, earned a standing ovation at Friday night's performance. Jeremy Gaston's Donkey had a contagious laughter befitting his character, which spread to the rest of the audience as he mimicked other characters and hung on Shrek like a child curious to know every detail of the world. Christian Marriner was the true highlight of the performance, however. He spent almost all two and half hours on his knees as the short-in-height Farquaad and still managed to dance and do some version of the splits. The musical also has a hidden gem in a surprising backstory for Farquaad not included in the film.
"Shrek" is a musical full of surprises that never get old. Children love the story, and adults who appreciate the show's unique sense of humor will leave with infectious smiles on their faces.
SHREK the Musical
http://www.shrekthemusicalontour.com/Gallo Center for the Arts
Folsom Lake, CA
March 14 - 17
April 3 - 4