Book and Lyrics by: David Lindsay-Abaire. (Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animation film and the book by William Steig.)
Music by: Jeanine Tesori (I’m A Believer by Neil Diamond)
Company: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
Venue: SaGaJi Theatre, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance: Saturday, December 3, 2016.
If you’ve got young kids, you know about Shrek. He’s the big green ogre we first met in a Dreamworks blockbuster film in 2001. Unlike the mythological ogres who were thought to feast on small children, Shrek is a lonely, lovable and very funny hero. The film was adapted for the stage, opening on Broadway in December, 2008. The show was nominated for twelve Drama Desk Awards and eight Tony awards (it won one Tony for costume design). Shrek the Musical has been produced worldwide since 2008, and landed on the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center stage for the Christmas season.
In the unlikely event that you haven’t already seen the film or the stage production, the script is a love story designed to appeal to children of all ages (rude noises are plentiful and funny). Shrek (David Wiens) lives by himself in a rancid swamp, and he’s quite happy there, at least until his habitat is invaded by a gang of fairy tale creatures (the usual suspects…Pinocchio, the Fairy Godmother, the three little pigs, etc). It seems they have been banished from the Kingdom of Duloc by the diminutive Lord Farquaad (Max Ferguson).
|Fairy Tale Characters. Front, L-R: Elf (Arielle Miagkov), Pinocchio (Kevin Pierce), |
Peter Pan (Sammy Gleason).
As Shrek tries to help the motley crew of imaginary characters, he rescues a wayward donkey (Danny Wilfred) from Farquaad’s guards. The donkey is chatty, perky, and endlessly annoying, but Shrek agrees to take the donkey with him to confront Farquaad.
It true fairy tale fashion, Shrek winds up fighting a dragon and crossing a lake of molten lava to find Princess Fiona. Of course, true love ensues and endures, despite the dreadful mismatch between a beautiful princess and a green ogre.
Lead (and Equity) actors David Weins and Maggie Davenport make a marvelous couple; their chemistry is genuine and the kids in the crowd know it. Despite the seemingly disqualifying traits of their characters Weins and Davenport pull off a ‘beauty and the beast” love story. Both have strong acting and singing skills, and those skills are on full display in the rude but endearing tune I Think I Got You Beat, featuring a farting and belching medley. The humor is obvious, but the song has the stealth effect of humanizing the beauty and the beast. Whether one is a princess or a green monster, the loud expulsion of gas from the digestive tract is a trait we all share. Weins and Davenport are just like us, despite their polar opposite characters.
|CENTER: Fiona (Maggie Davenport), Shrek (David J. Wiens).|
Danny Wilfred’s donkey is amazingly light on his hooves, doing his dance moves with an exuberant equine finesse. Wilfred has an sharp sense of comedic timing and a variety of exaggerated facial expressions to punctuate the comedy. Max Ferguson has a “diminished” role as Lord Farquaad, proving that great things come in small packages. Ferguson has a beautiful booming voice, and he cuts it loose for his signature song The Ballad of Farquaad. It should be noted that just as Wilfred is light on his hooves, the same can (and must) be said of Ferguson’s knees.
The Saturday matinee was not without its challenges. A stage hand had to sneak onstage to secure a wheeled set piece, and Ferguson’s mic failed briefly during one of his songs. That said, though, this is an excellent production. Christopher Sheley’s set makes extensive use of scrims. Lighting Designer Holly Anne Rawls lights them up with what seems like magic. Rawls lights a scrim house in the second act, creating a strikingly beautiful scene between the donkey and Fiona. Director Nathan Halvorson infuses endless energy into his characters, and his touch with the tap dancers is unique. They start the song behind a curtain hiding all but their shoes. It’s a marvelous device to make the audience focus on the talented tappers.
Shrek The Musical attracts a young audience. I estimate that at least 1/3 of the theatre fans were under the age of 15 at this performance. This show speaks to kids; they can easily relate to Shrek’s isolation and to Fiona’s search for true love’s first kiss. In many ways, we are all kids. No matter our age, we all get the message: don’t judge people by their appearance. Our similarities are much more prominent than our differences.
The Fine Arts Center is making a statement with Shrek The Musical. We’ve had a difficult election year, so costume designer Lex Lang puts the donkey in a T shirt with the words “Make Duloc Great Again.” We are reminded that Duloc is already great, and not because it almost gets a wall to keep people out. It’s because, in the end Duloc welcomes all despite their differences.
That message is precisely the right one for a divisive election season and a much needed Christmas season of giving and healing.
The theater is not dead, but theater etiquette may be on its last legs. This performance included both late arrivals (as late as 40 minutes after the scheduled curtain) and early departures (at the dramatic climax of the love story). In both cases, the disruptions were within two or three rows of the stage, making the incidents obvious to everyone in the room. In both cases, it was parents with several kids in tow, distracting both the actors and the audience from the story. It’s disrespectful, and it’s a lamentable display for the impressionable children in attendance.
This show makes extensive use of theatrical fog/smoke. It is hypoallergenic, and should not cause a problem for those with allergies.
This show closes on January 8, 2017.
Producing Artistic Director: Scott RC Levy
Directed and Choreographed by: Nathan Halvorson
Music Director: Jerry McCauley
Scenic Design: Christopher Sheley
Lighting Design: Holly Anne Rawls
Sound Design: Ben Heston
Costume Design: Lex Liang
Hair, Prosthetics & Makeup Design: Jonathan Eberhardt
Properties Design: Emma Dean
Production Stage Manager: Kaetlyn Springer
Tap Choreographer: Zachary Seliquini Guzman
Shrek: David Wiens*
Fiona: Maggie Davenport*
Donkey: Danny Wilfred
Lord Farquaad: Max Ferguson
Dragon/Mama Bear/Ensemble: Alex Campbell
Pinocchio/Ensemble: Kevin Pierce
Gingy/Sugar Plum Fairy/Ensemble: Rebecca Meyers
Little Fiona: Ellie Levy/Ella McCauley
Teen Fiona/Elf: Arielle Miagkov
Witch/Mama Orgre/Ensemble: Alannah Vaughn
Papa Bear/Papa Bear/Ensemble: Thomas Voss
Peter Pan/Ensemble: Sammy Gleason
Ugly Duckling/Ensemble: Tracy Hedding
Captain of the Guard/Ensemble: Micah Spiers
Big Bad Wolf/Pied Piper/Ensemble: Adam Blancas
Pig #1/Ensemble: Parker Fowler
Pig #2/Ensemble: Nate Ferrick
Pig #3/Ensemble: Casey Fetters
Fairy Godmother/Ensemble: Carmen Shedd
Baby Bear/Ensemble: Micah Wilborn
*Members, Actor’s Equity Association
THE SWAMP BAND
Bass: Jay Hahn
Keyboards: Sharon Skidgel
Violins: Elisa Wicks & Cynthia Robinson
Trombone: Rick Crafts
Trumpet: Sean Hennessy
Reeds: Ed Hureau & Cully Joyce
Percussion: Richard Clark