Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Shrek The Musical, based on the 2001 animated DreamWorks film that was in turn loosely based on William Steig's picture book, Shrek!, is making its Muny debut.  This story about an ogre who falls in love with a princess has enough fairy tale elements to please the kids, but also enough harmless adult humor to keep everyone else entertained.  It also manages to transcend the sight gags and fart jokes to give this musical an innocently sincere message about self-acceptance.  The production's eye-candy's not bad, either.

Stephen Wallem (Shrek) and Michael James Scott (Donkey).
Photo credit: Sarah Conard
© All Rights Reserved
Shrek (Stephen Wallem), a green ogre who was kicked out of his home and shoved out into the world at seven years old has grown into a grouchy loner who cherishes his solitude, so when a bunch of fairy tale misfits show up in his swamp, Shrek's not having it.  They were kicked out of the kingdom of Duloc and ordered there by Lord Farquaad (Rob McClure), so Shrek heads to the castle to get the deed to his land back.  On the way to Duloc, Shrek meets the talkative but delightful Donkey (Michael James Scott), another misfit who's on the run from the kingdom's guardsmen, so Shrek begrudgingly rescues him and takes him along.  Once they arrive, the vertically challenged Farquaad, desperate to marry and become king, ends up enlisting Shrek to rescue Princess Fiona (Julia Murney -- B'way Crush #2 and most recently in our very own Deanna Jent's play, Falling, off-Broadway), who he has learned is locked in a dragon-protected tower.  In exchange for bringing her back to the castle,  Farquaad promises to get the fairy tale squatters off of Shrek's property.  Bonding on their travels, Shrek and Donkey make their way to Princess Fiona.  After subduing the dragon, Fiona and Shrek, an unlikely pair, start to warm to each other after discovering they share a proficiency for flatulence and burping.  Still, Fiona is guarding a secret that is eventually uncovered, and all of the first act set-ups for Shrek, Farquaad and Fiona satisfyingly pay off.

Julia Murney (Princess Fiona) and Stephen Wallem (Shrek).
Photo credit: Larry Pry
© All Rights Reserved
Shrek and Fiona make an amusing pair, and while Wallem makes the otherwise intimidating Shrek quite likable and vulnerable, Murney gives Princess Fiona humor with a dose of attitude.  One of their numbers together, "I Think I Got You Beat" is a display of low-brow humor at its best as they try to out-belch and out-fart each other.  Wallem makes his second act "When Words Fail" touching and sweet, and Murney's "I Know It's Today", performed with the younger Fionas (Maria Knasel and Allison Broadhurst) is also a little bittersweet, but funny and nicely staged.  Scott and McClure draw the biggest laughs as Donkey and Lord Farquaad.  Animated throughout, Scott milks every opportunity for humor as Donkey, and adds a marvelous singing voice to the hilarious "Don't Let Me Go".  McClure spends most of the night on his knees as the diminutive Farquaad with little legs out in front of him.  The effect is pretty comical and McClure makes the most of it whenever he's on stage.  Shrek also features a strong ensemble, many filling in for various roles, and the fairy tale characters all shine in "Story of My Life".

Rob McClure (Lord Farquaad).
Photo credit: Larry Pry
© All Rights Reserved
This musical rolled through the Fox a few years ago, and here under the direction of John Tartaglia, (the Genie in this past season's Aladdin), I thought certain aspects of this production were more engaging than the tour -- something I never thought I would say.  The show was not, however, without its rough patches, but the pacing and unevenness will most likely smooth out with more performances under everyone's belt.  Nevertheless, I love a big dragon puppet.  This one is nimbly controlled by a group of puppeteers and soulfully voiced by Natalie Venetia Belcon.  There was the traditional iomk (influx of Muny kids), but the scenes in which they appeared weren't forced, enjoyably done and complementary to the musical numbers.

It's playing until the 30th, so check it out and let your freak flag fly!

The Dragon.
Photo credit: Larry Pry
© All Rights Reserved

Book/lyrics by  David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Jeanine Tesori 
Directed by John Tartaglia
through June 30 | tickets: $12 - $80
Performances Monday to Sunday at 8:15pm

Stephen Wallem (Shrek), John Echele (young Shrek/Dwarf), Tiffany Green (Mama Ogre/Humpty Dumpty/Happy People), Jerry Jay Cranford (Papa Ogre/Captain of the Guards), Julia Murney (Princess Fiona), Maria Knasel (Young Fiona), Shaver Tillitt (King Harold/Baker/Papa Bear), Ann Sanders (Queen Lillian/Mama Bear/Blue Bird Voice), Courtney Arango (Ugly Duckling/Blind Mouse), Michel Baxter (Peter Pan/Guard/Knight), Whitney Brandt (Tweedle Dee/Guard), Matthew Crowle (White Rabbit/Guard/Knight Happy People), Anthony Christian Daniel (Pinocchio/Guard), Marjorie Failoni (Fairy Godmother/Fiona Double/Happy People), Ryan Fitzgerald (Pig/Guard/Knight/Happy People), Becky Frohlinger (Baby Bear/Blind Mouse), Jordana Grolnick (Wicked Witch/Happy People), Madison Johnson (Tweedle Dum), Cory Lingner (Pig/Bishop/Guard/Happy People), Adam Rogers (Mad Hatter/Thelonius), Heather Jane Rolfe (Sugar Plum Fairy/ Gingy/Blue Bird Puppet/Happy People),Sam Seferian (Pig/Guard/Knight), Kaitlyn Louise Smith (Shoemaker's Elf/Duloc Performer/Blind Mouse), Jerry Vogel (Big Bad Wolf/Pied Piper/Happy People), Michael James Scott (Donkey), Rob McClure (Lord Farquaad/Voice of Dwarf/Dragon Head), Allison Broadhurst (Teen Fiona) and Natalie Venetia Belcon (Dragon).

Scenic design by Steve Gilliam; lighting design by Nathan W. Scheuer; projection design by Seth Jackson; costume design by Andrea Lauer; musical direction by Rick Bertone; sound design by Jason Krueger; choreography by Vince Pesce; production stage manager, Michael T. Clarkston; asst. stage managers, Mary Jane Probst and Suzi Bonnot.


  1. boring and lame shows ever... the shrek doesnt look like one, skinny and tall? no technical no quality

    1. Where were you? You didn't see what I saw! It was fun for the whole family and entertaining. Left the Muny feeling good about life. Life changing show? No.....but one to remember!

    2. you obvisly havent seen the tour then casue it rocked, best ever, this however was awful, the scenic designes and costumes and singing and staging all sucked! I didnt see it, but i saw clips and it was awful! and whats with the lame weelchairs in freak flag