Caleb Clark in the Alliance Theatre’s production of Shrek the Musical. (Photo by Greg Mooney)
Caleb Clark in the Alliance Theatre’s production of Shrek the Musical. (Photo by Greg Mooney)

By Manning Harris
fmanningh@gmail.com

“Shrek the Musical” is currently holding forth in a delightful production at the Alliance Theatre’s Mainstage through March 16.  You can call it a children’s show if you wish, but its themes of self-acceptance and vanquishing the myth of “normality” are easily relevant to all ages.

I must confess I had never seen the 2001 movie or the stage musical version, which opened on Broadway in 2008.  So the wit and wisdom of “Shrek the Musical” came as a very pleasant surprise.

Most will know that Shrek is a large, greenish ogre with “self-image challenges,” as Director Rosemary Newcott puts it, who inhabits a swamp.  He might scare you if he crossed your path; although he does have a commanding air and a big voice (splendidly played by Caleb Clark), he has frustrations and vulnerabilities that make him seem, well, human.

Meanwhile, there’s a lovely semi-fragile princess named Fiona (Galen Crawley) who’s trapped in a tower waiting for a prince to rescue her.  And it seems that the tranquillity of Shrek’s existence is now threatened by a bunch of fairy-tale beings exiled from the Kingdom of Duloc by Lord Farquaad (David de Vries).  Especially winsome is the Donkey (Monté J. Howell), who wisely places a high value on the power of friendship.

It occurs to me that Shakespeare himself (purists will squawk) would smile at this story; but I think the creator of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Tempest” would heartily approve.

Not to worry:  There’s no Elizabethan dialogue here; all the language is crystal clear.

Ms. Newcott’s cast is charming and talented:  Danyé Evonne, Jeff McKerley, Marcie Millard, Lyndsay Ricketson, and Jeremy Varner complete the ensemble. The songs are lots of fun and well-delivered; the lighthearted, professional showmanship makes it all look easy.

More credits:  music, Jeanine Tesori; book and lyrics, David Lindsay-Abaire.  Kat Conley gives us a  witty set, and Sydney Roberts’ costumes are first-rate.  The sound design is by Clay Benning; choreography by Henry Scott; music direction by Christopher Cannon.

“Shrek the Musical” is a show where pathos, humor, and rollicking theatricality triumph.  I think adults, children, and yes—even teenagers—will have a good time.  Only true curmudgeons need not apply—there’s a dragon in this show to dispense with you—just kidding (well, there is a dragon).

For tickets and information, visit alliancetheatre.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.