| Ok, let me come clean right from the start. I was not enthused about going to see Shrek the Musical. I loved the film, who didn’t? I was however, not clear on how you could transform the great story and the brilliance of Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy to the stage. Not to mention I knew the hall would be filled with kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids, but that is probably because I have none.
Shrek and Donkey
Upon arrival the first thing I notice is that the hall is filled with two types of people: kids and queens, oh my! So if nothing else was to come of this night, there were plenty of hot gay guys to look at. Upon entering the auditorium, I am immediately struck by the stage and its’ stunning treatment for this production. I know right away I am in for a night of stunning visuals.
The production begins when Julie Andrews, who played Queen Lillian in Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, and Shrek Forever After, provides the voice for the audio instructions before the performance that reminds the audience to turn off their cell phones, the use of recording devices is forbidden, etc. and "if you refuse, a terrifying ogre will leap from the stage, lift you from your seat, and drag you far, far away."
In case you live in a swamp and are not aware of the story of Shrek, I will give you a brief synopsis. Shrek is an ogre who is thrown out of his home at the tender age of seven and quickly learns that it is not only his parents who are not eager to have him around. He lands in a swamp where he leads a solitary life, one that he grows comfortable in.
David F. M. Vaughn as Lord Farquaad
Unfortunately, one day Lord Farquaad, exiles all fairy tale creatures from the nearby Kingdom of Duloc. Here you will have a blast rediscovering many of the fairytale creatures of your childhood. They are all here, Pinocchio, The Three Blind Mice, The Ugly Duckling, The Wicked Witch and so many more. They all land in Shrek’s swamp and decide to call it home. Shrek is none to happy with the disruption of his solitude. He wants them gone and now!
The fairytale creatures convince Shrek to go and Talk to the Lord so they can return to the Kingdom and he can have his swamp back. The play then becomes a road movie with the introduction of Donkey and then a love story after Shrek brokers a deal with the Lord for the deed to his swamp if he will deliver Princess Fiona to the Lord.
Fiona has been locked in a tower surrounded by a moat and protected by a dragon since she was a little girl. If the Lord marries Fiona he becomes King. I will not spoil the outcome, if you don’t already know the ending, but it is a fairy tale so it’s not to tough to figure out where it is headed.
Shrek is filled with lots of fun and funny references to other musicals and pop culture including Dreamgirls, The Lion King, and Shaft. There are fabulous cameos by the cow that jumped over the moon and Puss in Boots.
There are also plenty of good messages for the kids, old and young. There is a thinly veiled parallel between the plight of the Fairy Tale creatures and struggle of the LGBT Community. The main message of Shrek is that you shouldn’t judge someone before you know them. But there are other great messages here that I am glad to hear being preached to kids young and old.
Blakely Slaybaugh as Pinocchio
Shrek as well as the Fairy Tale creatures were born different, but they tell you what makes us different is what makes us strong. Pinocchio shouts as if he is at a Pride Parade, “I’m wood, I’m good, get used to it!” This point is driven home in what is probably the best musical number in the show “Let Your Freak Flag Fly”. These creatures were just born different, ‘It’s not a choice we made, it is just the way we were hatched”, sings The Ugly Duckling. The song goes on to preach that the real problem is not that these creatures, the problem is the misunderstanding of them by others.
Shrek is played flawlessly by Eric Petersen. One of the things that made Shrek so loveable in the movie was the way you could feel his emotion through his facial expressions. You could feel his joy and you could feel his pain. Petersen had captured this perfectly. I found myself rooting for Shrek; Even feeling sorry for him at times. He is surrounded by this crazy cast of characters when all he wants is to be left alone. Shortly after meeting Donkey he cries out “Jeez, I am a crack pot magnet!” Shrek softens to the crackpots, largely because he realizes they are just like him.
Watching Haven Burton as adult Fiona was a delight. She reminds me of Kristin Chenoweth in Wicked, and that is a very good thing. She is another example how this cast makes you feel invested in what is happening. I was rooting for Shrek, but I wanted Fiona to have a happy ending too. Burton’s voice is a standout in a cast full of great voices. One of the most amazing moments of this production for me was when Burton sings with young Fiona and teenage Fiona “I Know It’s Today”.
Haven Burton as Fiona
Dragon and Alan Mingo, Jr. as Donkey
What would Shrek be without Donkey? Alan Mingo, Jr. has big hooves to fill, as the role of Donkey was originated by Eddie Murphy. It must be like playing Effie in Dreamgirls. Where Mingo is brilliant is that he uses his facial expressions and his gestures for his comedy and it serves him well. Mingo does a Mowtownesque number with the Three Blind Mice complete with walking sticks for the visually impaired. It is as great a number as it is funny.
I like to award the title “Show Stealer” to one actor in every show I review, because there is always one. But Shrek is so big, so Fabulous is it any surprise it offers up two?
David F. M. Vaughn as Lord Farquaad is perfection! His comedic timing is Brilliant. I would like to single out one number where he shines, but anytime he is on stage it is fun with a capital F. The Lord is very obviously in the closet and Vaughn spends the entire production on his knees playing the diminutive Lord who would be King. Insert your own jokes here. His mere entrance on the stage signaled great things to come. He was a great joy to watch and I would not be surprised if we hear more of him in the future.
The other standout is The Dragon as sung by Carrie Compere, and puppeteered by Kevin Boseman, Tyrone Davis, Jr., Denny Paschall, and Kevin Quillon. The Dragon puppet is amazing. The dragon is all new for the tour and those in the know say it is better than the one that played Broadway. She’s thirty-two feet long. It’s a Michael Curry design, who designed all of the puppets for the Lion King. Every show needs a diva, and this one is first rate.
As amazing as the puppet is she would not have the impact she does were it not for the voice of Carrie Compere, who also plays Shreks’ mother in the opening scene. Her voice is a gay mans’ dream and we are blessed with a bit of “And I’m Telling You…I’m Not Going” which she does better than Effie in the recent tour of Dreamgirls.
The show ends as the movie did with a big splashy rendition of “I’m a believer”. Complete with confetti shot over the audience from cannons. Kids young and old were dancing in the aisles to the finale of what was a blast from start to finish. I found it hard to imagine this cartoon coming to life, but this show is all about imagination. From all the fairy tale characters and their fantastic stories, to imagining a Princess could love an ogre. This show is truly is an amazing experience. The experience is animation come to life.
Shrek The Musical will be at Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas, TX through October 17, 2010. Single ticket prices range from $29 - $133.50. Tickets are available at the DSM Box Office at 542 Preston Royal Shopping Center in Dallas, all Ticketmaster outlets, online at dallassummermusicals.org, or by calling 214-631-ARTS (2787).
Because this show is a part of the State Fair of Texas, which is on the Fair Park grounds, your ticket to the show is your ticket to the fair! Please be aware that parking will be an additional fee. Consider Dart’s Green Line, it drops you at the entrance to the Fair.
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