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.