‘Shrek The Musical JR’ at Aldersgate Church Community Theater

Aldersgate Church Community Theater proudly presents the DC area debut of Shrek The Musical JR, with Music by Jeanine Tesori and Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. Director Corey Latta Bales and Musical Director Kim Fairchild lead a large cast of thriving young actors, and the result is a solid evening of fun for the whole family!

Princess Fiona (Shannon Flack), Donkey (Brendan DeBie), and Shrek (Christian Fernandez). Photo by Sean Flack.
Princess Fiona (Shannon Flack), Donkey (Brendan DeBie), and Shrek (Christian Menendez). Photo by Sean Flack.

Scenic Designer Jon Poole uses a larger-than-life storybook to (literally) unfold the plot. It takes at least three young actors to turn the “pages” of the book, showing painted backdrops designed by Heather Norcross, including a swamp, stone castle walls, and a dense forest. Mark Poole’s Lighting Design adds tone to the scenes, such as an angry red overtone to compliment a fuming dragon, or flashing lights for a frenzied swordfight scene.

Jess Moreno’s costumes were creative in their imagining, and the fairy tale characters were easily recognizable. I especially liked the Dragon, a part that was shared by three young ladies (Abigail Abraham, Emma Ekman, and Delany Keefe), who worked together to sweep the stage. Another winner in the costume department was the hilarious Lord Farquaad (I won’t spoil the surprise, but I will tell you that I’m still giggling over it). The list of contributing set builders, painters, and costumers are long ones, and the team effort shows in the results!

The show begins with Shrek’s parents teaching him a life lesson in the number “Big Bright Beautiful World.. Despite the cheery titles, the song is anything but; because Shrek is an ogre, he is doomed to be a despised outcast, and is told to isolate himself from a hateful world that is indeed “big, bright, and beautiful…but not for you.” Now grown, Shrek (a tour de force performance by Christian Menendez) has settled into his quiet, lonely life at the swamp, which is rattled when our beloved fairy tale characters are deemed “freaks” because of their differences (sung about in the delightful number “Story of My Life”) and banished to the swamplands by Lord Farquaad, a hilarious performance by Adin Weingast.

Shrek goes to Farquaad’s castle to complain, and is met with a proposal: if he voyages to a remote castle and rescues the imprisoned Princess Fiona (Shannon Flack)  for Farquaad to wed, the unwanted extra company will be moved elsewhere. Thrills, adventure, and surprises follow Shrek on his quest, alongside an annoying tag-along Donkey played by Brendan DeBie, whose silly, loud performance made him a clear-crowd favorite. Moody Weingast and lively DeBie make a great pair, and an even greater trio when the spunky Flack joins them on their journey. The unlikely friends journey homeward, but not before battling secrets, misunderstandings…and a dragon!

Fairytale creatures Peter Pan (Maggie Patrick), Ugly Duckling (Willa Madar), Three Little Pigs (Hannah Roddy, Molly Johnson & Hartley Hayden), and Big Bad Wolf Pete Peterson lament their fate in “Story of My Life.” Photo by Michelle Shaffer.
Fairytale creatures Peter Pan (Maggie Patrick), Ugly Duckling (Willa Madar), Three Little Pigs (Hannah Roddy, Molly Johnson & Hartley Hayden), and Big Bad Wolf Pete Peterson lament their fate in “Story of My Life.” Photo by Michelle Shaffer.

The young actors, while still developing their craft, did a great overall job with this production and worked well as a team. The song-and-dance numbers were very nicely done, my favorite being Lord Farquaad’s “What’s up, Duloc?” which included hysterical choreography that I’m still chuckling over. I have no idea how the actors kept a straight face through that number! Choreographer Michael Page also does a nice job with the song “Morning Person,” which is accompanied by tap dance and showcases a promising singing voice for Shannon Flack.

Brendan DeBie received the loudest applause after his riotous song “Make a Move.” While some of the songs are downright silly (the gassy “I Think I Got You Beat” comes to mind), an important lesson weaves them all together; that differences should be celebrated, not discouraged. The whole ensemble drives the point home in the number “Freak Flag,” where the fairy tale characters band together to claim the respect that they deserve.

I had a great time at Aldersgate Church Community Theater’s production of Shrek The Musical JR. Cheeky and fun, and with a great dynamic among the young cast, this is a great night of family entertainment.

Running time: one hour and 45 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

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Shrek The Musical JR plays through January 25, 2015 at Aldersgate Church – 1301 Collingwood Road – in Alexandria, VA. Purchase your tickets at the door or online.

LINK
Aldersgate Church Community Theatre Opens ‘Shrek The Musical JR.’ Tonight by Shelagh Roberts.

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