Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's review of Into the Woods
Set once upon a time in a fairy tale land, Shrek tells the story of a scary green orge who lives in quiet isolation in a swamp until a group of now homeless fairy tale creatures evade his land, telling him they were forced out of their homes by Lord Farquaad. In order to get the creatures off his land and back into their homes, Shrek strikes a deal with Farquaad to go on a quest, with his new friend Donkey, to save the feisty Princess Fiona, who is imprisoned in a dragon guarded tower. If Shrek can bring Fiona back to Farquaad, who he wants for his bride, the fairy tale creatures will get back their homes and Shrek can have some peace and quiet. However, things dont go exactly as planned.
The musicals witty and imaginative book and zany lyrics are from Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. While Jeanine Tesoris music is fun and varied and Lindsay-Abaires lyrics are creative, a few of the songs are just average and some of Lindsay-Abaires jokes could be better. Also, the bathroom humor, while appealing to kids, might turn some adults off, and the same could be said about the more serious adult themes, like the very mature focus on finding ones true love, which might be boring to some kids. However, in the end, the fun characters and charming score outweigh the downsides and the end result is a joyful, upbeat show.
From the leads to the hardworking ensemble, the ABT cast is absolutely perfect. They expertly bring the familiar characters from the film to life but do so without completely copying the vocal mannerisms of the film actors. Jason Simons powerful voice excels on Shreks many solo songs but he also exudes warmth and charm as the lovable ogre. He perfectly portrays the conflicted feelings that Shrek has when he first meets both Donkey and Fiona, yet we see his overprotective outer shell start to soften as he warms to both of them. Liz Fallon is a hoot as Fiona. She is feisty, sweet and zany, and sometimes exudes all three traits at the same time. Her voice matches Simons in power and clarity and her songs soar.
In the supporting cast, David Brumfield is hilarious as Lord Farquaad and Deonte L. Warren is a comical gem as the non-stop talking Donkey. They both have stellar singing voices and perfect comic timing. Their expert facial expressions add to the hilarity and they both dont miss a beat in ensuring every one of their comic lines lands expertly. In smaller parts, Seth Hunter as Pinnochio and Ali Whitwell as Gingy infuse their parts with glee. Whitwells voice achieves some amazing notes.
Mace Archers direction keeps the frenzied fun of the show at a high energy level from the opening number through to the finale. He ensures that his cast makes every joke in the script land, and land perfectly, though he also doesnt make short shift of the more serious moments in the story. Kurtis W. Overbys choreography includes plenty of fun, creative movement that fills the stage. Jim Hunters set design is fairly simple, yet effective, using a large storybook framing element that is permanent throughout the show plus a few smaller set pieces to whisk us from one location to another. The colorful costumes from Missoula Childrens Theatre and Lottie Dixon evoke the fantasy and fairy tale characters of the story playfully. Adam Bergers superb music direction achieves stellar notes from the entire cast and orchestra.
Shrek is full of fun characters and is a joyful romp through a fairy tale land. While the plot may be a little too familiar for those who are fans of the film, and a few of the songs are just ho-hum, it still has plenty of comical moments as well as several upbeat songs and witty lyrics. With an excellent cast and colorful creative aspects, ABTs production amounts to an utterly enjoyable experience.
Shrek the Musical runs through August 14th, 2016, at the Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane in Peoria. Tickets can be ordered at www.azbroadway.org or by calling 623 776-8400.
Stage Direction by Mace Archer
Cast: (in Alphabetical Order):
*Actor appears through the courtesy of Actors Equity Association,the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States