‘Shrek The Musical’ at The Suburban Players

The Suburban Players celebrate 40 years with a fabulous production of Shrek.

The Suburban Players at Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church have chosen the fun fairy tale Shrek the Musical, drenched in green and sprinkled with humor, to celebrate their 40th production Demetrios and Rena Makres have produced the show and John Desmone lovingly directs, and R. Christopher Rose music directs. Peter Beleos is the Technical Director and is the sound technician, while the scenic direction is provided by Bill Lericos. Desmone designed the colorful set.

Shrek  is a bold undertaking for any community theater. The show requires mult-talented performers with great comedy and singing skills, as well as puppeteers and tap dancers. The Suburban Players successfully showcases all of these facets in this well-cast musical comedy. The dinner theater experience they offer at St. Demetrios is quite remarkable and one can feel a strong sense of community and bonding all the way from the church youth costumed in black and white who serve the diners expertly, to the actual performers onstage. The entire experience rivals that of any professional dinner theatre in the area.

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As the show opens, a giant storybook – that actually opens – allows the fairy tale story to literally step off the page and come to life. Mama Ogre (Kristen Cooley) and Papa Ogre (Rick Arnold) send Young Shrek (Daniel Christ) off into the world in a humorous but bittersweet goodbye song that sets the tone for Shrek’s life and the challenges he is to face. Cooley’s voice is big and lovely and Christ offers an expressive performance of Young Shrek’s mixed emotions at his send-off. We are introduced to our princess as three Fionas (young: Elena Tagliaferro, teen: Kaela Monsanto, and adult: Julie Parrish) lament their long wait for a champion to save her in “I Know It’s Today.”

We encounter the all-grown-up Shrek (Dickie Mahoney), as he enters with boisterous energy and a voice to match, complete with the Scottish accent. He’s fabulous and conveys the character’s personality and emotion with a great blend of humor and confidence, underscored by his heartbreak at a life of rejection. His delivers beautiful renditions of  “Who I’d Be,” “When Words Fail,” and “Build a Wall.”

His faithful and over-the-top sidekick Donkey (Gary Dieter) gives and equally strong performance that pairs a great singing voice with perfect comedy timing. He’s hilarious and connects well and often with the audience from the smallest of side-glances to getting close enough to joke about what diners are eating. He’s a riot in Don’t Let Me Go” and “Make a Move.”

When Shrek’s swamp is overtaken by fairy tale creatures thrown out of Duloc, we are treated to a beautifully costumed cast of colorful and easily recognizable characters. In this ensemble, each is a standout and are very well-directed in their characters’ nuances and traits. Pinocchio (Kevin James Logan), Sugar Plum Fairy (Tammy Oppel), and Wicked Witch (Lisa Pastella) are highlights in this strong ensemble.

As Donkey and Shrek reach the castle, they encounter the comically diminutive Lord Farquaad (Ken Ewing). Ewing delivers a villain we love to hate and injects Farquaad’s numbers with plenty of exaggerated camp, ideal for his character, especially in the tour de force performances of “What’s Up Duloc?” and “The Battle of Farquaad.”

When our heroes reach the beautiful but quirky Fiona, she adds to the fun, creating a talented trio of travelers. Parrish is a very likable and believable Fiona, with a clear and lovely soprano capable of belting. The chemistry between Shrek and Fiona is sweet and palpable and has the audience rooting for this pair. “I Think I Got You Beat” showcases the initial spark of their feelings, while being playfully and appropriately crass.

There are many memorable scenes, but highlights include “Travel Song,” cleverly brought into the audience and performed as something of a vaudeville act with lots of interaction with the audience and personalized jokes for the community to enjoy (hint: baklava, like onions, has layers). As well as, “Make a Move,” Donkey’s R&B solo. Another highpoint is the tap dance during “Morning Person,” featuring Fiona, the Pied Piper, and an ensemble of adorable and energetic tapping rats. It’s a well-executed and fun number that the dancers, as well as the audience, enjoyed.

Choreographer Deborah Goetzinger, infuses the movements with joy and energy making great use of the stage and space. “Forever” is another choreographic highlight with dancing skeletons and ghoulish dragon guards. The dragon (voice: Diane Maistros, puppet: Emily Jewett) is an impressive mechanism.

Tracy Bird and Stage Garb Inc. do a fantastic job of keeping costumes styles close to the original with accurate fairy tale costumes and bright and colorful garb for Lord Farquaad and his team of high spirited Duloc dancers and guards. It’s important to keep it authentic with characters that children are familiar with, and The Suburban Players’ designers do just that. The lighting and staging works well, relying on an impressive number of beautiful backdrops, rather than full out sets, to convey the settings.

The Suburban Players’ Shrek The Musical is an absolute delight. It’s well worth the trip to Saint Demetrios to experience the talent and warmth of this fine community theatre troupe.

Running Time: Two hours and 40 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission.

Shrek the Musical plays through February 22, 2015 at The Suburban Players—performing at Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church – 2504 Cub Hill Road, in Parkville, MD. For tickets, call (410) 248-0582.

RATING: FOUR-AND-A-HALF-STARS10.gif