Although it is not “officially” designated as the kids’ show for the current season, “Shrek the Musical” sure looked like it to most of the over 8,600 patrons on opening night.
It’s a brave little show with great character roles, solid leads and for the most part, it’s funny from start to finish, although there are times that “start to finish” seems like a very long time. The Muny’s “Shrek” also features a rousing curtain call finale with the number “I’m A Believer” that sends the audience home on a very high note.
Stephen Wallem likeable plods his way through the show as Shrek, the disenfranchised ogre whose beloved personal swap home is invaded by a raft of well-known story book characters. They’ve been banished by the evil Lord Farquaad in a plan that will lead to Farquaad’s opportunity to marry the beautiful Princess Fiona, played by Julia Murney. Michael James Scott is entertaining as Donkey, who becomes Shrek’s trusted companion throughout the adventure.
Many character roles in “Shrek The Musical” are brimming with possibilities, and no one takes better advantage of that than the ever-talented Rob McClure as Lord Farquaad. His jump into his role is comically complete and includes some very tricky stature sight gags that become the show’s most effective running joke.
Large scale theatrical puppetry is given a grand gesture with the inclusion of a long, evil dragon in Act II given terrific voice by Natalie Venetia Belcon.
“Shrek The Musical” at The Muny is an agreeable evening that would be more enjoyable with a more consistent tempo, and that will probably improve as the week goes on. This show will never be remembered for its music, so perhaps a number or two could have been cut. Some Variety Kids are a wonderful inclusion into the production. Maria Knasel as Young Fiona, Allison Broadhurst as Teen Fiona and John Echele s Young Shrek/Dwarf all prove that in many respects, the Muny is growing its own stars of the future.
And yes, the new Muny fans really work!