BWW Reviews: SHREK THE MUSICAL Brings Magic to Raleigh
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by Larisa Mount
All the characters from your favorite fairy tales (and more!) are popping up in Raleigh. The national touring company of Shrek the Musical has taken up residence at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, presented by the NC Theatre and Broadway Series South.
Shrek the Musical follows the same basic plot as the original Shrek film. The fairy tale creatures have been kicked out of the kingdom of Duloc and into the swamp of Shrek, the ogre. Shrek and his travelling companion, Donkey, head to Duloc to ask Lord Farquaad to remove the characters from his swamp. Lord Farquaad wants to marry the princess Fiona, so Shrek and Donkey agree to rescue the Princess Fiona from her tower in exchange for the removal of the fairy tale creatures. Princess Fiona, however, is no ordinary princess, as they all find out.
It is my humble opinion that the musical is better than the movie – it's a little bit sassier and totally hilarious. There are hilarious references from popular culture (shake weight, anyone?), as well as music, movies, and, of course, musical theater. There are some great little references to Gypsy, Dreamgirls, Wicked, Les Mis, and more. These elements make it a show with a very wide prospective fan base – children, Shrek fans, musical theatre fans, and pretty much anyone with a pulse.
In particular, I find the character of Fiona to be especially likeable. Full of gusto and girl power, Fiona holds her own against a scary ogre, a quick-witted donkey, and a power-hungry would-be king. In this production, Whitney Winfield does the role justice, especially in the toe-tapping act-two opener, "Morning Person."
The standout in this production was Christian Marriner as the diminutive Lord Farquaad. Marriner's Farquaad is charmingly nefarious and delightfully devilish. To portray the petite Lord, Marriner performs nearly the whole show in a costume which requires him to do everything on his knees – even big dance numbers! He rises (so to speak) to the challenge and absolutely delivers in his big numbers, "What's Up, Duloc?" and "The Ballad of Farquaad."
The highlight of the show, for me, was the should-be iconic number "Freak Flag," in which all of the excommunicated fairy tale characters realize that the very things which make them strange are the things which make them wonderful. They embrace who they are and encourage everyone to do the same. Other highlights include Shrek and Fiona's battle to one-up each other, "I Think I Got You Beat" and Princess Fiona's hope for a prince despite desperate isolation, "I Know It's Today."
Though the set is scaled back from the original Broadway rendering (to accommodate travel, I presume), the show is still big and bold, and totally worth seeing. The score is excellent, the costumes are fabulous (Pinocchio's nose really grows!), and the ensemble is phenomenal. The show is appropriate for kids 6 or 7 and up, provided they're able to sit still through a full-length musical.
Shrek the Musical runs through December 2. For tickets and more information, visit www.nctheatre.com.
Photo credit: LvR / paparazzibyappointment