©2010 DreamWorks Theatricals (Joan Marcus)
Pictured: Eric Petersen (Shrek)
PNC Broadway in Louisville is wrapping the 2010-11 season with Shrek, the musical, an irreverant blockbuster sure to entertain all ages. Fans of the 2001 film will enjoy hearing their favorite lines again, and the story remains essentially the same, but with the musical version creators David Lindsay-Abaire (Book & Lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (Music) have updated this already modern fairy tale as an irreverant comment on tolerance and acceptance. Don’t let that scare you. While the message is as pungent as an ogre’s gym socks it never overpowers the story.
Telling the tale this week at the Kentucky Center for the Arts is a young, talented and energetic cast able to maintain their enthusiasm even as they look forward to the conclusion next month of Shrek’s year-long American tour. The company is led by Eric Peterson in the eponymous role of an ogre who apparently loves his solitary life in the swamp, fighting to regain his solitude after Lord Farquaad, played by David F.M. Vaughn, banishes all of the storybook creatures of Duloc to his boggy budoir. Duloc is a lot like Disneyland, complete with a castle and uniformed dancers who smile and wave as if their lives depend on it—which they do. The name of the town is thought to be a nod by the film’s producers to their university Notre Dame de Lac. The musical also pays homage to a number of popular Broadway shows pop-culture idioms.
Shrek, The Musical also gives us insights into the main characters through songs that tell the personal histories of Shrek, Princess Fiona, Donkey, Lord Farquaad, and the Dragon. It may have been the sound system or my aging ears, but some dialogue was difficult to understand, especially during the big production numbers. If you have any hearing issues I urge you to pick up one of the infrared sound enhancement devices supplied free-of-charge by the Kentucky Center.
©2010 DreamWorks Theatricals (Joan Marcus)
Pictured: David F.M. Vaughn (Farquaad), “Gingy”
and Keven Quillon (Guard).
As befits a Broadway production of this calibre the creative team has made use of a wide-range of contemporary storytelling devices that include the use of a giant, articulated Dragon puppet. I applaud the producers for their tongue-in-cheek approach to design that gives the audience credit enough to be in on some of the jokes rather than spending inordinate amounts of time trying to hide the obvious. Their lower tech solitutions such as the rodentia frug in Act II set a wonderfully intimate tone . I am particularly grateful that no one attempted to muzzle Alan Mingo, Jr., as Donkey in a latex proboscis. His characterization and vocal expressions were excellent and masterfully conveyed the character.
That being said Peterson seemed not at all inhibited by the makeup required to turn him into a hulking, green monster and Vaughn clearly reveled in the possibilites offered by the prostethics to put his comic villian Farquuad over the top. Say Farquaad five time, fast.
One of the best numbers in the show is the 11 o’clock number "Freak Flag" performed by the ensemble in their roles as storybook creatures. Led by Blakely Slaybaugh as the increasingly militant and slightly delusional Pinnochio (sans cricket), and featuring Louisville’s own Sarah Peak as the Ugly Duckling, it is an irreverant take on the nature of fairy tales and the rigours of living up to society’s expectations.
Shrek: The Musical operates on multiple levels with plenty of fart jokes for the under-13 set (and guys) and a larger message that will give adults something to think about while laughing at the fart jokes.
The PNC Bank Broadway in Louisville presentation of Shrek: The Musical continues through Sunday, June 12, 2011 at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. Get your tickets at the box office: 502.584.7777 or www.KentuckyCenter.org.
The 2011-2012 season begins September 12--30 with the return of Wicked. Season ticket-holders will also have the best seats in the house for Fiddler on the Roof, Mary Poppins, Blue Man Group and Billy Elliot. For more on season tickets call 502.561.1003 or go to www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com. Current season ticket holders have until June 24, 2011 to retain your current seats or make exchanges before other orders are processed.