BWW Review: A FARTING BELCHING OGRE WILL STEAL YOUR HEART at Dreamhouse Theatre
If you leave David Lindsay-Abaire's SHREK, THE MUSICAL at Dreamhouse Theatre without feeling lighter, happier and better than when you walked in, there is something seriously wrong.
Until opening night, I had never been to a performance where EVERY SINGLE musical number was punctuated by a thunderous round of applause and woos from the appreciative audience.
This show has it all - part twisted fairytale, part irreverent fun - a slew of entertaining characters beloved from storybooks, performers with incredible voices, imaginative makeup, fun, colorful costumes, perfect lighting, and a delightful set.
Directed by Bryan and Darci D'Onofrio and choreographed by Theresa Colado, I didn't know how a huge cast of 29 would fit on a smaller stage together, but somehow it worked perfectly.
Based on the storyline of the 2001 Dreamworks film Shrek, the musical tells the tale of a solitary ogre whose peace is invaded by "freaks," fairytale creatures from Duloc banished to his swamp. It examines his journey, who he meets and what he goes through to win his swamp back from the overcompensating Lord Farquaad.
Jeff Lukas completely embodies the lead role of Shrek, not only taking on his recognized ogre personality traits, but talking and singing in an authentic Scottish brogue as well. Given the constraints of his makeup prosthetics, his ability to emote was impressive. He vacillated between being sardonic and laugh-out-loud funny to other times sweet and gentle. He especially shined in the earnest "Who I'd Be," where the audience saw the ogre's longing to be someone other than a feared and misunderstood creature. His show-stopper "Build a Wall" was of course met with deserving applause.
Topher Warren is a tartly funny Donkey. His humorous expressions, one-liners, comedic timing and sassy reactions to Shrek absolutely made him one of my favorite characters. His costume was adorable and makeup - spot on. I overheard an audience member, "I don't know what he looks like out of costume, but that man is gorgeous - look at his skin." And Donkey wasn't just cute; he has the pipes. In "Don't Let Me Go" he references all the things he would be willing to do for his new BFF including hiding a body or shaving his back.
One can't talk about Donkey without mentioning Grace Spenceley as the Dragon. Her voice matched her costume - strong, evocative and beautiful.
Karli Gundersen gives an outstanding performance as Fiona. This actress' effortless notes can easily break a wine glass. Her powerhouse vocals are the perfect complement to Lukas and Warren's. One of my favorite performances featured the introduction of Fiona at different ages with three actresses. Daisy Pitchford played young Fiona and Taylor D'Onofrio played her as teen. When the three voices blended for three-part harmony in "I Know It's Today," the result was breath-taking. The audience adored Gundersen. When she said, "I don't understand; I'm supposed to be beautiful" and Shrek said that she was, they literally responded with "aww."
In "I Think I Got You Beat," the chemistry that Shrek and the Princess have is so much more than a gaseous contest. They metamorphosize from aloof strangers to goofy, charming, belching and farting romantics.
Trevor Lloyd is exceptional as the campy over-the-top, short-statured Lord Farquaad. You forget that the skinny legs dangling before him are not his own. Anyone who's sat on their knees for any period of time will greatly admire his ability to do this without losing balance or feeling in the real appendages. His vocals chops are showcased in "What's Up Duloc" and "Ballad of Farquaad," a song about his dad, Grumpy (yes, that one.)
My favorite group number is act two's production "Freak Flag," where the fairytale creatures sing about how proud they are to be different, especially a cross-dressing Big Bad Wolf. Props to every single character for bringing my fairytale memories to life - flawlessly.
The accents taken on by the different fairytale creatures and underlings of Lord Farquaad were incredible. Though I want to acknowledge each one, this review would turn into a book. I especially must give a shout-out to Bri Filippelli as the Gingerbread Man Gingy/The Sugar Plum Fairy for her puppeteering skills and incredible voice; the gorgeous Wicked Witch with equally gorgeous vocals, Anais Garcia; Ryan Keene as the falsetto-voiced Pinocchio for sounding just like I imagined a wooden boy might sound like. Possibly my favorite voice ever was the lispy Bishop who was supposed to marry Fiona and Lord Farquaad, played by Tim Mendoza. It was so unexpected and funny, I missed what he was saying as the audience's laughter drowned out his words.
This cast has thrown themselves into their respective roles, is having one heck of a good time and the audience can feel it. This high energy, feel good, be-true-to-your-authentic-self message, with tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek musical makes for a fun and entertaining performance and an unexpected love story you and your family don't want to miss.
Dreamhouse Theatre is located at 1840 Oak Grove Blvd., Lutz. SHREK THE MUSICAL runs June 17th, 22nd, 23rd and 24th at 8pm, June 18th at 3pm, June 25th at 3pm and 7pm. Learn more at www.dreamhousetheatre.com. Tickets are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/shrek-the-musical-tickets-25723091459. Dreamhouse Theatre will be having a free preview of their 2017-2018 Season on July 28 & 29.