Shrek the Musical @ The Beck Center, December 7 through January 6
Review by Laura Kennelly
The spirited Shrek at the Beck (isn’t it cool that it rhymes?) mixes a perfect combination of fairy tale characters, monsters, and music to kick off the holiday season. In this well-executed production (well, maybe not opening night since there was a brownout and a 45-minute wait before things got started), Director Scott Spence and his merry crew offer a treat for children and the adults that bring them.
With book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, the show is based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture, which in turn was based on the children’s book by William Steig.
Like so many fairy tales, very bad things set the story moving. Poor seven-year-old Shrek gets tossed out of his home by his parents. They are ogres and that’s the way ogres act. He’s a bit shocked, but philosophical (and his parents seem rather glad to have their place to themselves again). Once out into the “Big Bright Beautiful World” Shrek adapts, making his home in a swamp and, while knowing he is ugly, his great green face topped by funny little horn-knobs reflects contentment.
Until! Until a host of famous storybook characters (Pinocchio, The Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, a Wicked Witch, The Big Bad Wolf, Peter Pan, Ugly Duckling, Fairy Godmother, The White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Sugar Plum Fairy, Humpty Dumpty, and an Elf) shows up in his swamp.
Lord Farquaad has forced them to leave their homes in the Kingdom of Duloc. In order to restore his peaceful isolation, Shrek agrees to rescue Princess Fiona, who--coincidentally, was (like Shrek) sent away at age seven--in her case, to live in a tower. The evil Farquaad intends to make her his bride.
As with many good stories, things happen along the way.
Four strong leads created joy and kept us engaged. As Shrek, local favorite Gilgamesh (G. A.) Taggett presented a goofy grump so loveable that we soon forget his green face and that he is, indeed, quite ugly. Equally appealing is Remell Bowens as Donkey, Shrek’s travel companion and true friend. Bowens’ broad comic gestures and (let’s face it) donkey manners, brought laughs and grins whenever he appeared.
Natalie Steen brought charm (and always tasteful comic vulgarity) to the ladylike demeanor of Princess Fiona, a beauty seeking to kiss her one true love and thus remove the terrible spell she had been cursed with.
As the very short Lord Farquaad, Brian Altman ruled supreme in his role, one which required significant physical effort, especially when he danced.
The ensemble (consisting of the aforementioned fairy tale characters) moved impressively to a generous helping of tuneful song and dance numbers. Cheers to both musical director Larry Goodpaster and choreographer Martin Cespedes for creating plenty of fun--especially at the curtain call.
After a rocky start (as mentioned above) the scenic design by Don McBride, projection design by Brittany Merenda, and sound design by Carlton Guc all contributed to our delight.
Bottom Line: Absolutely no reservations in suggesting that those who might be looking for a fun way to share holiday celebration time with family (especially children) and friends should look into a visit with green monster Shrek and his motley crew.