Charm City Players once again delivers a family-oriented ensemble show that is certain to delight all ages. This time, it’s Shrek The Musical, with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, and music by Jeanine Tesori.
Stephan Napp directs a cast of 25 + players that delivers the simple message of, “Don’t judge a book by its green cover.”
As the story begins, seven-year old ogre, Shrek (Pierce Elliott,) is being sent out into the world to make his own living. Sadly, he is warned that his looks will make everyone hate him and that he will not have a happy ending.
Years later, Shrek (Dean Allen Davis) resides contently alone in a swamp as depicted in his solo “Big Bright Beautiful World” that Davis performs with a gentle sweetness. That is this character, which demonstrates that Shrek is not a big, mean monster.
Soon, Shrek’s solitude is interrupted and property invaded by the arrival of a band of fairytale creature. They tell Shrek they were banished from the Kingdom of Duloc by Lord Farquaad (Steve Wannall) for being freaks and will be put to death if ever they return as performed in “Story of My Life.” Wannall gives a hilarious performance as the vertically-challenged Lord Farquaad, who over-compensates for his short stature against a big ego. It’s highly impressive that Wannall, while he is not a little person, physically pulls it off.
Young Fiona (Susanna Hoffman), Teen Fiona (Dani Kellner), and Princess Fiona (Malarie Novotny) share the stage performing, “I Know It’s Today,” that tells the story of Fiona’s fate being locked away in a tower just like other princesses, and harmonize beautifully.
Opposing in character to Shrek is Donkey (J. Hargrove), who emulates a Broadway-like persona in this role. Hargrove offers up laugh-out-loud antics and yet shares a connection with Dragon (Melissa Ann Martin). In the catchy tune, “Forever,” Martin shares this number with Donkey and the Knights ensemble and truly knocks it out of the park with her powerful voice. Martin also doubles as Mama Ogre, Mama Bear, Rat, and Blind Mouse.
Leading the band of misfits is Pinocchio (Ryan Roberts), who comes across as a bit eccentric. This is not the sweet Disney Pinocchio we are used too, but Roberts pulls off a creepy and effective performance.
The ensemble cast works well together and what is so amazing about this cast is that each contributed to the design of their costumes. Each represented their characters in a tried and true way so that it was easy to pick out the Three Little Pigs (Emma Peterson, Miranda Snyder, and Dani Kellner), Alice (Darby Brandenburg), Peter Pan (Brendon Brewer), Tink (Chloe Ennis), Mad Hatter (Mary Gorman), the Wicked Witch (Hannah Gutin-Creech), The Big Bad Wolf/Papa Ogre/Guard (Brian Mellen), Ugly Duckling/Guard (Madeleine Tindal), Fairy Godmother/Blind Mouse (Kristi Dixon), and Sugar Plum Fairy/Gingy/Duloc (Chrissy Napp), Shoemaker’s Elf/Duloc/Rat/Dwarf (Annemarie Pallanck) Papa Bear/Guard (Thomas Ogar), and Thelonias/Pied Piper/Bishop (Wayne Yinger).
The standout costumes were Dragon as she donned a long red dress gilded in gold trim and had scalloped wings on her arms. The sugar plum fairy also stood out wearing her pink, pink, and more pink from head to toe and blinking lights that accentuated her tutu. It’s a tie between the (big) Dragon (J. Hargrove, Stephen Napp, Annmarie Pallanck) and Lord Farquaad whose king costume had an average-sized man representing a little person. It works and does not offend. Costuming was managed by Mary Gorman, Mary Hoover, Tina Karavedas, Lynn Keller, and Kathryn Weaver. Wig and make-up design was by Hannah Gutin-Creech.
Cleverly, the set for this production various pieces have been repurposed from previous productions because this company is still young and operating on a shoestring budget. Stephen makes it work using the stained-glass window from the previous production of The Sound of Music, and the flower garden from The Wizard of Oz.
With such a large cast, credit has to go to Choreographer Jason M. Kimmel; Tap Choreographer, Karen Daniels, and Dance Captains Kirsti Dixon, and Hannah Gutin-Creech for a job well done, and Musical Director Kathryn Weaver, and her fine musicians..
Charm City Players truly reaches out to deliver family-friendly shows that have big casts and are big productions. What makes this company work so well is that it is one big happy family that includes moms, dads, kids, grandparents, and maybe even an uncle or aunt or two, who come together to perform wonderful and meaningful entertainment for the entire family.
Running Time: Two and a half hours, including one 15 minute intermission.
Shrek The Musical plays through May 3, 2015 at Charm City Players performing at the Hannah More Arts Center at St. Timothy’s School – 8400 Greenspring Avenue, in Stevenson, MD. For tickets, call (410) 472-4737, or purchase them online, or at the door.