Shrek, The Musical at Children’s Theatre Company

Autumn Ness and Reed Sigmund in Shrek, The Musical.  Photo by Dan Norman.

Autumn Ness and Reed Sigmund in Shrek, The Musical. Photo by Dan Norman.

Unless you’ve spent the last dozen years sequestered in a Kazukistan monastery, you know the story of Shrek, The Musical (at Children’s Theatre Company, through June 15): Shrek, an ogre, rescues Princess Fiona from the nasty dragon, falls for her, rescues her from the vertically challenged Lord Farquard, and finally helps her to find her “true form.” Shrek, The Musical works, rather effectively, around the edges, substituting zippy Broadway tuneage for detailed story, lush stage design for the multi-dimensional reality of the movie world, brash presence for character depth.

There’s no way, for example, that a theater producer, no matter how well-heeled, can recreate Princess Fiona’s dark castle with the rickety bridge over molten lava, the fire-breathing dragon (in love with Donkey), the castle keep. So CTC doesn’t try. Instead, director Peter Rothstein (the super-talented local music theater auteur) and wonderful designers Paul Whitaker and Kate Sutton-Johnson substitute swirling red gobo lights, explosions and a knockout Supremes-esque singer (Lauren Davis) as the Dragon. Scary? Not really. Effective? You bet.

The usual CTC suspects have found employment in this play: Ansa Akyea (Me And Jackie Robinson), Reed Sigmund (just about everything CTC has ever produced), Autumn Ness (ditto), Adam Qualls (Alice In Wonderland), Lauren Davis (Cinderella). They may not be the finest music theater actors currently bestriding the planet but they do just fine, and brother do they go to town with the characters. They are a great pleasure to watch.

Does anyone do bluster-with-a-big-heart better than Reed Sigmund? The rotund Sigmund plays Shrek with indecent glee and he naturally and effectively makes the journey from worm-gobbling loner to green-hued lover. Autumn Ness plays the crude and self-centered (at first) Fiona. When she lets Shrek gives her the all-important “love’s first kiss” she transforms herself. And we cheer. Qualls, the recipient of some outstanding work from costumer Richard O. Hamson, is a hoot and half as Lord Farquard (this aspect of the play verges on the politically incorrect; I didn’t care but you might). Ansa Akyea, laboring in the long shadow of Eddie Murphy, does nice work as Donkey. Brandon Brooks delights as Pinocchio.

Songs and music were composed by Jeanine Tesori. Lyrics are by David Lindsay-Abaire (he also wrote the book). The songs represent the value-added aspect of Shrek, The Musical, so here’s the Big Question: are they worth the large dollars CTC charges for a ticket? Well, you tell me. The songs are certainly lovely, but they also feel static. They don’t advance the story as much as I would prefer. But maybe I’m wrong. Certainly the audience had a grand time.

Shrek, The Musical is the last play of CTC’s 13-14 season. The next season has been announced; check out the CTC website.

For more info about John Olive, please visit his website.

1 comment for “Shrek, The Musical at Children’s Theatre Company

How Was the Show for You?

Your email address will not be published.