It’s a big, bright, beautiful world over at the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts Inc., as the teen professional theatre troupe presents Shrek the Musical. A rousing fairytale the likes of which you’ve never heard before based on the classic movie. Join your favorite ogre in his quest to rescue a beautiful princess locked high away in a tower with a fire breathing dragon as her babysitter. With a talking donkey and dozens of other incredible storybook creatures there’s a good time waiting to be had by all. Directed by Kevin McAllister with Musical Direction provided by Brant Challacombe, this talented troupe of youth performers really brings the magic to the fairytale musical.
With dozens of fairytale creatures evicted from the Kingdom of Duloc, Costume Designers Florence Arnold and Penny Lemire have their work cut out for them. Creating marvels that make Pinocchio look like a real wooden boy and bringing Humpty-Dumpty to life is no small feat. Arnold and Lemire show off an impressive range of fantasy costumes as well as shiny plastic outfits for the denizens of Duloc to keep them all in the conformist dream of their peculiar soon-to-be-king. The look achieved by their efforts is impressive and really draws the audience into the whimsy of the show.
Director Kevin McAllister, working with Vocal Coach Helen Strine, conceives the perfect gritty Scottish sound from Shrek. McAllister is a wonder with the youth performers, giving them guidance on such a professional level that you forget you’re watching young students perform.
Musical Director Brant Challacombe gets perfects sounds from these incredibly talented performers, incredible harmonies and powerhouse blasts of sounds for big ensemble numbers like “Freak Flag” and “Story of My Life.” You’ll feel as if you’re hearing a Broadway production and simply be blown away by the way these young actors are able to master singing these songs with correct rhythms, intonations, and overall sense of fun and enjoyment.
Choreographer Shalyce Hemby keeps the musical moving with all of her fancy footwork. The intense tap-dance routine featured in “Morning Person” featuring over a dozen ensemble tap dancing mice is awe-inspiring and really fun to watch. Hemby choreographs larger numbers for the group like the marching stomp routines featured in “Story of My Life” and “Freak Flag” with the same grace and uniformity that she works through the smaller more focused numbers like the complex routine featured in “What’s Up, Duloc?” which showcases roughly 20 ensemble members performing in perfect synchronization sliding on their knees and filling out a kick-line. Hemby’s work is the stuff of happily ever after-type stories and really brings that extra pizzazz to the show.
The talent featured in this production is endless; every person in the ensemble having a bountiful voice that rings to the rafters and brings the merriment of such a fun and thrilling new musical straight to your ears. From the Three Blind Mice (Erin Paxton, Jenna Balderson, and Sarah Winchell) getting jazzy and soulful in “Make a Move” to Pinocchio (at this performance Stephen Dransfield) with his amusing antics in “Story of My Life,” there is just a world of amazing natural talent, honed and practiced, to behold. Balderson doubles as “Gingy” (the gingerbread man with the gumdrop buttons) and gives a stunning solo introduction to the song “Freak Flag” followed by many incredible line solos performed by a great many others. And keep your eye on the Pied Piper (Jacob Hamel) who really shows off his break-dancing moves in this fun-filled number!
Where there’s a princess in distress there’s bound to be a Dragon (at this performance Erin Paxton) and the incredibly powerful high-range belt delivered by Paxton is phenomenal. With all the passion of a fiery fantasy creature this girl knocks it out of the park with her incredible voice. Falling for Donkey (at this performance Charles Tangires) who plays the comical sidekick to the ogre on his quest, the pair bring great voices to “Forever.” Tangires as the uproarious and fuzzy tagalong understands comic timing and has a really spunky voice perfect for “Make a Move,” and his duet with Shrek “Travel Song.” Really laying thick into the comedy he brings laughs a plenty for “Don’t Let Me Go,” a song where his voice is as powerful as his physicality across the stage.
Being the ogre that’s outcast by everyone, Shrek (at this performance Sam Kobren) makes his way through the story with a great comic ease as well as vocal perfection. With a big bright boisterous sound for “Big Bright Beautiful World” and “I Think I Got You Beat,” Kobren has a great deal of fun with the role, which really lets the audience enjoy it. He even brings on the heartfelt emotions of love for “When Words Fail” and bitter tragedy for “Build a Wall.” He pairs perfectly with Fiona (at this performance Alison Bradbury) for their duet in “I Think I Got You Beat” and the comic shenanigans that the pair get up to in “This is How a Dream Comes True” keeps the audience laughing through the whole encounter.
Bradbury, joined by Teen Fiona (at this performance Kaylee Robinson) and Young Fiona (Samantha Yakaitis) create a trio of blissful harmonies for “I Know it’s Today,” the most hopeful and dream-filled song in the show. Robinson is sprightly and fun, engaging with the audience for “Morning Person,” and watch her dance among the tappers in this number, it’s pretty entertaining. A well rounded princess performance, meshing perfectly with the rest of the fairytale world.
So don’t build a wall, take your talking donkey or your flying broomstick and get on down to see these amazing youth performers in their sensational fun musical this summer.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 45 minutes, with one intermission.
Shrek The Musical plays through July 21, 2013 at Glenelg High School— 14025 Burntwoods Road in Glenelg, MD. For tickets are available for purchase online or in person at the door.