Shrek is back in full green glory
Last year Jonah learned to ride a bike. More recently he picked up a hockey stick. During the holidays my seven-year-old grandson tolerated three “Nutcrackers” – one on ice – and yesterday he got his first taste of a live, local theater rendition of Shrek the Musical not far from his Baltimore home.
Reisterstown Theatre Project”s production of Shrek the Musical, based on the movie Shrek, which is based on the William Steig picture book about a repugnant ogre who leaves home and ends up saving princess. There are no scary parts like the current fairytale films, Cinderella or Into The Woods in this show, just a loveable ogre character who finds love and pride.
I have witnessed the whole range of Shrek productions (at least three in the past month, including a kids show that featured another family member), so I was especially interested in my grandson’s opinion. He loved it. Yesterday’s matinee was jolly and mischievous, filled with sly in-jokes and yet still possessed heart.
Sure there were glitches – with a cast of nearly 100 (all ages) stage it was tough to avoid some stumbling, thanks to Choreographer Deb Carson who kept the large ensemble moving across the stage and Bea Lehman who directs. Mainly, though, this show captured the best of a screwball comedy and showcased the talented leads, especially James Gilbert as Shrek and his acting pal Greg Quinn as Donkey.
Gilbert charmed the audience from the pre-show announcement to turn off electronics, etc. It wasn’t the traditional warning but a goofy bit about punishing those who disobeyed and throwing them into his slimy habitat. During their traveling to save the princess, Shrek and Donkey put on a side-show much like a Laurel and Hardy skit. The twosome (who seem so comfortable together on stage) made countless references to other musicals and film characters. There’s even a reference to taking a detour to Cal Ripkin’s home. The Baltimore Orioles’ fans in the audience cheered heartedly.
Shrek is a lovable character, and I especially liked Gilbert’s brogue. Irish or Scottish? Poor Shrek. He wants only to be left alone, not because he is an ogre but a lonely creature who wants love like everybody else. He is dismayed when his swamp is invaded by storybook characters who were banished by Lord Farquaad, amusingly played by Hugh Carson (he has to move across the stage on his knees to emphasize a very short villain (this brought another chuckle).
Lead voices were quite good, Shrek, Fiona (Megan D’Alesandro) and Shrek in the first act closer, “Who I’d Be.” Other musical treats include the feminist ditty “I Think I Got You Beat” and the optimistic “I Know It’s Today,” sung by all three Fionas, D’Alesandro who rocked the song, Maddie Simmons, and Brooke Nixon, sweeter and more hopeful.
Both kids and adults played the fairytale characters, Thumbelina, the Ugly Duckling, the Three Little Pigs, Three Blind Mice, a particularly sexy Cheshire Cat, Tinkerbelle, Little Red Riding Hood, and Pinocchio whose nose kept growing as Alex Levy sang his solo in falsetto. Jonah was fascinated with the Wicked Witch (Kathy Blake) who wasn’t as wicked as some of those Disney sorceresses and the Dragon (Lauren Warner), all decked out in red sparkles with a nice touch of purple lighting.
I couldn’t end without a special note to Andrew Zile, music director and conductor, who led the dozen excellent musicians in a pit orchestra, located on the left wall of the auditorium. There is also a nod to the French Horn solos by Greg Lauer and the percussionist wizardry of Keith Kamerbach.
Reisterstown Theatre Project’s Shrek the Musical is fun for the whole family!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes, with 15-minute intermission.
Shrek, the Musical plays through March 29, 2015 at The Reisterstown Theatre Project, performing at Franklin Middle School -10 Cockeys Mill Road, in Reisterstown, MD (at the intersection of Main Street and Cockeys Mill Road). Matinees are scheduled at 2 p.m., including today’s show. Evening shows are at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, purchase them at the door, or online.