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Review: ‘Shrek: the Musical’ at Rockville Musical Theatre

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Rockville Musical Theatre’s Shrek, the Musical is a large-scale, glitzy, theatrical extravaganza. This production has got it all: Belting performers, elaborate sets and eye-catching costumes.

Director Lee Michele Rosenthal has assembled a perfect cast in this production of the 2008 Tony-nominated musical with book and lyrics by renowned playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and music by the incomparable Jeanine Tesori.

Shrek, the Musical follows the story of the 2001 Dreamworks film Shrek in telling the heartwarming tale of a disenfranchised Ogre named Shrek who is displaced from his hovel in a swamp when an overcompensating Lord Farquaad banishes the “freaks” from his kingdom and sends them to said swamp. Shrek, used to living alone and unhappy with the intrusion, sets off on a journey to give Lord Farquaad a piece of his mind and ends up finding love and friendship instead.

in Shrek. Photo courtesy of Rockville Musical Theatre.

Liz Hester, Steve Cairns, and William Jeffreys in Shrek: the Musical. Photo courtesy of Rockville Musical Theatre.

Steve Cairns is perfectly cast as Shrek. His voice is very reminiscent of Brian d’Arcy James, who originated the role on Broadway, and he shines in songs such as “Big, Bright, Beautiful World” “Who I’d Be” and his belting show-stopper “Build a Wall.” Given the constraints of his costume, Cairns ability to emote was impressive. At times he was sardonic and comic, other times sweet and tender.

Liz Hester gave a funny and heartfelt performance as Fiona. Actually, all three Fionas deserve recognition for their strong performances in what is my very favorite Shrek song “I Know It’s Today.” Young Fiona, – played in the performance I saw by Sarah Meyer – and Teen Fiona, played by Saira Umar, turned out vocal performances on par with their grown-up counterpart and when the three Fiona’s came together in harmony at the end of “I Know It’s Today” the effect was applause-worthy.

William Jeffreys was a highly entertaining Donkey and my daughters, who were in the audience with me, voted him best character in the show. Cairns, Hester and Jeffrey were a fun trio to watch as they wandered through the woods in songs like “Who I’d Be.”

Jack Stein’s Lord Farquaad was side-splittingly funny and he has the vocal chops to be in the spotlight in songs such as “What’s Up Duloc” and “Ballad of Farquaad.”

Jack Stein and the cast of Shrek: the Musical. Photo courtesy of Rockville Musical Theatre.

Jack Stein and the cast of Shrek: the Musical. Photo courtesy of Rockville Musical Theatre.

Rockville Musical Theatre’s production includes a cast of no less than thirty-two performers. The big ensemble numbers “Story of My Life,” “Freak Flag” and “I’m a Believer” were enhanced by Duane Monahan’s amusing choreography and 2015 WATCH Award-winning costumes designed and sewn by Kathy Dunlap (rented from Reston Community Players from their 2015 production of Shrek the Musical). These elements combined to fill the large stage at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre to an extent not commonly seen in community theatre productions.

Also impressive were the multiple sets, designed by Saira Umar (yep, the same person who plays Teen Fiona). Umar’s sets allowed this massive production to recreate a wide range of scenes from Shrek’s boggy swamp, to Fiona’s castle, to Lord Farquaad’s dungeon. There was even a giant fire-breathing dragon (the Dragon is featured in one big number “Forever” that is sung offstage by a very talented Ashley Williams).

The orchestra, led by Musical Director Marci Shegogue, did a solid job with the score and the lighting design by Suzanne Platt added magical atmosphere.

Rockville Musical Theatre’s production of Shrek: the Musical features a great story, a great cast, colorful costumes and a wonderful set, and is fun for kids and adults alike.

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Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Shrek: the Musical plays through November 13th, 2016 at Rockville Musical Theatre performing at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets call the box office at (240) 314-8690 or go online.

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