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Big, Green, and Hilarious; Shrek the Musical

A Review by Jane Haworth
Staff Writer

Where else can you see Pinocchio, three blind mice, a flying dragon, tap-dancing rats, a talking donkey and an enchanting Ogre all come together on stage? Currently opening the 2011/2012 Broadway Series at The Community Center Theatre in Sacramento is Shrek the Musical.

I couldn’t have imagined that such a popular animated movie could make the transition to a Broadway musical hit and still really work, but Shrek the Musical has all the right elements. A lovable main character striving to make things right, a princess in torment, an evil villain, a talking donkey and a supporting chorus of colorful fairytale creatures. This musical packs a lot of laughs, an original score of 19 new songs by David Linsay-Abaire (lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori, and colorful costumes by Tim Hatley and Austin Sanderson.
Photo: Lukas Poost as Shrek

The story of Shrek was taken from the original children’s story written by William Steig in 1990. Steig, the New Yorker’s longest running contributor with more than 1,600 drawings, wrote his first children’s book at the age of 60. He wrote Shrek when he was 83 and died in 2003 at the age of 96. He won the Caldecott Medal for his work, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. For those who have somehow managed to avoid seeing the 2001 DreamWorks animated film Shrek, a synopsis of the story goes like this: To reclaim his homeland swamp from an assorted mob of fairytale creatures, Shrek, the ugly, green, but lovable ogre must rescue the dragon-guarded Princess Fiona. He is to deliver Fiona to an inadequate Lord Farquaad who wishes to marry her in order to become King. Fiona (naturally) falls in love with Shrek and Shrek falls for Fiona… but Fiona is cursed! She too is an Ogre, but only by night, and will change to her true self when she receives “true loves first kiss”.
Photo: Luke Yellin as Pinocchio and the fairy tale creatures in ‘Freak Flag’

What makes this musical different to the well-known animated movie is that the audience is told the back-stories behind many of the characters. Who knew Shrek’s parents happily sent him away at the age of seven to fend for himself. Young Alexa Kerner makes her national tour debut performing the role of the young Shrek. Like young Shrek, Princess Fiona is also banished by her parents to a lonely tower at the age of seven. It is also revealed that Lord Farquaad’s real father was Grumpy from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves! Other comic remarks and references throughout the show add a new dimension to the story.
Photo: Andre Jordon as Donkey, with Dragon voiced by Kelly Teal Goyette

My favorite performance and that of the audience, judging by the standing ovation, was the vertically challenged, slightly camp Lord Farquaad played excellently by Merritt David Jones. He sang, moved around the stage and did a high-kick dance routine all whilst on his knees. To portray his limited stature his costume cleverly allowed him to cover his feet and legs with a cape, whilst with the aid of a pair of false, yellow stocking legs, he skillfully and comically pulled it off!
Photo: Merritt David Janes as Lord Farquaad, with the Duloc Dancers

Shrek, played by Lukas Poost, did not disappoint with the big costume, mask, green make-up, and added facial features including the all too familiar ears. Shrek’s character traits were all there including bodily noises, scratching of the backside and slight Scottish accent. One memorable scene was seeing the Princess Fiona growing up in her lonely tower. During her song ‘I know it’s Today’ the audience was introduced to three different Fiona’s. They grew from the young Fiona, Rachel Khutorsky, to teen Fiona played by Schuyler Midgett, both making their national tour debuts, until finally we meet the feisty, older Fiona played by Liz Shivener.

You would think it would be hard to live up to Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of Donkey but Andre Jordan does an excellent job of making this delightfully endearing character his own. The duet by Shrek and Donkey ‘Travel Song’ is excellent, with moving scenery and comic references to Disney’s Lion King. The Dragon is quite a surprise with the amazing vocal performance by Kelly Teal Goyette in ‘Forever’. The Chinese dragon style puppet sings, dances and flies around the stage with the aid of four puppeteers. Excellently lit and well performed.
Photo: left to right: Lukas Poost as Shrek, Andre Jordan as Donkey and Liz Shivener as Princess Fiona

This musical is great family entertainment, a story of love and friendships, and continues here in Sacramento until October 2nd. Shrek the Musical then continues on its national tour to Costa Mesa, CA and then Tucson, AZ. The Broadway series continues in Sacramento with Rain, West Side story and Mamma Mia. For more info www.californiamusicaltheatre.com 
Photo: Liz Shivener as Princess Fiona and ensemble in ‘Morning Person’

COMMUNITY CENTER THEATER BOX OFFICE, 1301 L Street, Sacramento, CA 
for single-show tickets: (916) 808-5181; WELLS FARGO PAVILION BOX OFFICE for single-show and season tickets: 1419 H Street, Sacramento, CA (916) 557-1999    (916) 557-1198. Single show tickets for Broadway Sacramento presentations are available online through services provided by going online to: www.Tickets.com  All Photos by
Charr Crail.

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