Friday, July 15, 2011

SHREK The Musical Makes a Splahy Entrance at the Pantages Theatre

Once upon a time in a kingdom known as Duloc, there was a big green curmudgeonly ogre named Shrek who lived alone in a swamp, and all was well…at least until the day Lord Farquaad banished Pinocchio, Tinkerbell, and all the rest of the fairytale characters to the very same swamp, making for one ginormously ticked off ogre.

Now Shrek must bargain to get his swamp back by defeating a dragon and rescuing a princess while reluctantly accepting the help of an excitable, motor mouthed Donkey. What he doesn’t bargain for is falling in love with said princess himself. Face it friends, this is the stuff that buddy pictures were made for.

SHREK fans fell in love with the big green guy in the DreamWorks movie franchise and will most certainly be enchanted by the touring musical’s treatment of this sweet “love conquers all” story. You can catch the show now through July 31st at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood… that is if you can get a ticket!

David Lindsay-Abaire’s book and lyrics are screamingly funny, with twisted storybook cameos by more fairy tale characters than you can count. Pay attention musical trivia buffs for you’ll hear a wealth of inside jokes that provide some great gut-busting laughs when you recognize them. There are winks to Dreamgirls, Wicked, Gypsy, Les Mis, Rent, Once Upon a Mattress and even Disney’s own The Lion King, but it’s all in good, lighthearted fun.

Jeanine Tesori’s music is everything you would hope for in a fantasy fairytale like SHREK, from the big, bright, beautiful storytelling opening number appropriately titled “Big Bright Beautiful World,” to the rollicking introduction of that “towering colossus of moxie” Lord Farquaad in “What’s Up Duloc.” I loved the three Princess Fionas singing in “I Know it’s Today” and that she progresses from day 23 to day number 8, 423 in the tower waiting to share true love's kiss with her terribly late prince.

Funniest of all are comedy songs like “Morning Person”, in which an exuberant Fiona sings, dances, and accidentally destroys innocent creatures of the forest (it even features a to-die-for tap sequence with a chorus line of handsome rats), and “I Think I Got You Beat” which becomes a one-upmanship contest between Shrek and Fiona of gassy proportions.

And though Shrek is a big, scary monster to those in Duloc who only take him at face value, by the time he sings his Act I finale “Who I’d Be,” he has more than worked his way into your heart. His explanation to Donkey that ogres are like onions is absolutely true and this ogre has only to peel away the layers until they reveal the diamond underneath.

Eric Petersen is truly lovable as the big green oaf and he has a big gorgeous voice to go along with his stature. Alan Mingo, Jr. as Donkey is a laugh a minute from the moment he convinces Shrek to let him be his “GPS with fur” and Haven Burton gives Fiona a charming awkwardness that comically pulls her back and forth between daytime reality and night time reality.

Two other performances also top the already excellent ensemble – David Vaughn’s Farquaad (you just have to see him to get the full effect) and Carrie Compere’s terrific lady dragon. She’s got the pipes to deliver a showstopping "Forever" assisted by four puppeteers manipulating her sweeping movements across the stage and backed up by four teetering knights in stocks.

Co-direction for this appealing national tour is by the Broadway team of Jason Moore and Rob Ashford, with choreography by Josh Prince and music direction by Andy Grobengieser.

SHREK is a big, splashy, colorful feast for the eyes and ears that carries with it lovely lessons about truth, acceptance, and the value of having friends. It is the perfect choice for a summer musical for the whole family.  

SHREK the Musical will play the Pantages Theatre for three weeks only through July 31st. Click Here for tickets and more information.

Photo Credit: ©2010 DreamWorks Theatricals, Joan Marcus

**This was also the first time that the theatre invited patrons to purchase tickets to sit in what they called the "Social Swamp" on July 12th and be able to tweet and post messages to Facebook. It was a full section that night and the running commentary on twitter was especially fun to read. Kudos on a great idea, Pantages!

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