By Manning Harris
“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.