Several years ago ‘Shrek The Musical’ donned the Civic Theatre Stage downtown. Then I thought the show was fun, clever and resourceful. This summer, for its third and successful production Artistic Director Steven Glaudini is mounting …you guessed it.
It will be playing through Aug. 9th and is well worth the trip to Vista. And yes, the show is still fun, clever and resourceful, but more intimate, more eye popping and so very entertaining.
The book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeannie Tesori is based on the characters from William Steig’s book, “Shrek!” the first chapter of the Shrek movie. “Shrek the Musical” isn’t by any means the first Broadway musical to be based on an animated cartoon movie.
Without having to reach too far back into my memory bank, “The Loin King” comes to mind. That said it was amusing, almost to the point of laugh out loud funny, when some of the puppet animals from “The Lion King” (in a miniature version) were pranced about on stage during one scene in the production.
Shrek’s (T.J. Dawson) story begins when his parents send him out into the world to fend for himself at the ripe old age of seven. It doesn’t take him long to discover whose fer him and whose agin’ him. (‘Big Bright Beautiful World’)
Soon his piece of swamp land, the place he calls home, is taken over by a parade of Disney characters from Pinocchio to the Gingerbread Man to the Three Pigs to the Sugar Plumb Fairy, to Mama Bear, Daddy Bear and Baby Bear, Three Blind Mice, The Ugly Duckling, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, (and then some).
Lord Farquaad. (Marc Ginsberg), Lord of Duloc, evicted them all from his lands. Farquaad, who is half man, half puppet is a sight to behold and just about steals every scene he’s in. From his torso up he is broad shouldered and dressed in semi regal attire, pageboy coiffed et al.
Just to get the picture, from the waist down his floppy little fake legs make him a most laughable character as he swaggers like a very important person. Ginsberg’s real legs are strapped behind him hidden by a black curtain yet he manages to move around as if nothing is out of the ordinary. (‘What’s Up, Duloc?’)
As a side note, director Vaughn knows the character well having played him in the first national touring show.
Back to the story: The only way Shrek can have some peace of mind and his piece of swamp land back is to rescue Princess Fiona (Michelle London) from the dragon-guarded tower so Farquaad can marry her.
The huge Red Dragon puppet (Jayna Byrd), designed by Christian Anderson and Derek Lux takes four crewmembers to manage. Hovering and shooting flames from its mouth, it’s an awesome and could be (to a child) a frightening sight. (‘Make A Move’; Three Blind Mice).
The deal is that when Shrek rescues Fiona and brings her to him, all the characters now on Shrek’s land can move back to Duloc. Shrek and his non stop talk donkey friend (a very funny Cornelius Jones, JR. “Don’t Let Me Go”) set out on their own journey to rescue (“Travel Song”) Fiona from the dungeon.
During the rescue Shrek falls in love with the Princess. Its true love plain and simple, well, maybe not so simple (there is a secret) but it’s done so well it’s worth watching unfold. (“This Is How A Dream Comes True”)
The production is in great hands with director/choreographer David F.M.Vaughn. The visuals created by the eye popping and glittering costumes by Kate Bergh and coordinated by Roslyn Lehman, Renetta Lloyd and Carlotta Malone ring professional through and through.
Co-musical directors Kenneth Gammie (who also conducts) and JD Dumas along and their fifteen- member orchestra never miss a beat. Tesori’s music and Lindsay-Abaire’s lyrics are a perfect match for this bigger than life musical that pokes at the Disney characters and then some, on the one hand, and creates a safe zone for ‘different’on the other.
Jean-Yves Tessier’s glowing lighting design is pleasingly perfect but Chris Luessmann’s sound design might be toned down a decibel or two.
As for the outstanding cast, talent oozes and everyone is in complete sync. Moonlight has a reputation of producing top quality musicals and ‘Shrek’ is no exception. T.J. Dawson, for all his size is more of a pussycat than the green ogre monster as some see him.
His tummy has fallen a few floors over the years, his face and head are still big, and he farts and burps a lot, but who cares. The Prince Charming, sent to rescue the Princess turns out to be a grumpy Ogre, but a loveable one at that. Well, at least Fiona thought so.
The burps and farts went a bit too far when Ms. London’s Fiona joined in on the chorus. Yours truly could live the rest or her days out without seeing that again.
Having said that, London livens up the role of the damsel in distress as she slowly grows her little ogre ears (that many in the opening night audience were wearing as well) and thickens in the middle and chemistry between Fiona and Shrek proved to be just what the doctor ordered.
‘Shrek The Musical’ is not only charming, it is filled with imaginative dancing, ‘Dancing Rat Tappers’, outstanding costumes typifying every Disney character imaginable and a Donkey that talks and is Shrek’s best friend. One can’t ask for anything better than that, ‘cause ‘I’m A Believer’.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Aug. 29th
Organization: Moonlight Stage Productions
Production Type: Musical
Where: Brengle Terrace Park, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive,Vista
Ticket Prices: Start at $24.00
Venue: Moonlight Amphitheatre