Review: Local Students Let Their Freak Flags Fly in KAT – Second Stage’s ‘Shrek the Musical, Jr.’

Sometimes, true perfection can be found where we least expect it. Whether you know it as a movie or a musical, Shrek has a pretty clear message for audiences: If you keep waiting for a perfect happy ending, your real happy ending may pass you by!

Shia Ringold as Donkey, Caroline Axley as Gingy, Payton O’Keefe as Shrek, Giorgia Dallasta as Princess Fiona, and Hayden Polsky as Lord Farquaad in KAT – Second Stage’s production of ‘Shrek.’ Photo by Michael Weiner.

Shrek the Musical Jr. is a perfect show for young performers and audiences of all ages. It features a beautiful score by the Tony Award-winning Jeanine Tesori, a healthy dose of humor (look out for potty jokes, Ogres like Shrek can be stinky!) and an uplifting message of acceptance.

KAT Second Stage Family Theatre’s production, playing now at the Kentlands Arts Barn through May 19, features a delightful cast of area youngsters led by Payton O’Keefe as Shrek, Giorgia Dallasta as Fiona, and a cadre of adorable performers playing an assortment of fairy tale creatures.

Shrek follows the journey of its title character as he is sent by the small-but-dastardly Lord Farquaad to rescue Princess Fiona from a tower. Of course, Farquaad only wants the princess so he can marry her and become a king, and Shrek only agrees to fetch her because his peaceful forest home is currently littered with Farquaad’s fairy tale character rejects, but remember what we said about happy endings: They often happen when you least expect them!

A number of students displayed strong singing abilities. The three Fionas (Little Fiona: Katie Musick, Teen Fiona: Annabel Kotek, and All-Grown-Up Fiona: Giorgia Dallasta) were a strong and delightful vocal trio in “I Know It’s Today,” Beatrice Ieronimo gave a Motown vibe to her big number “You’re Gonna Stay Forever,” Hayden Polsky as Lord Farquaad had a number of rousing moments in various songs, and as Shrek and Fiona, O’Keefe and Dallasta carried the show with excellent vocals throughout.

As Shrek’s faithful Donkey sidekick, Shia Ringold infused the show with a healthy dose of humor. Ringold displayed great comedic timing and her relationship with Shrek was delightful and endearing.

The company of ‘Shrek.’ Photo by Michael Weiner.

Fiona O’Connell carried us through the show as the narrator Puss in Boots, Caroline Axley was delightful as Gingy, the frightened cookie, and Zoe Fischthal was a clever Pinocchio. Fischthal’s Pinocchio voice was spot on and his growing nose was the best special effect in the show.

The costumes by Rebecca Bucci and Jennifer Morrissey were bright and fun. The Duloc dancers gave the show a healthy dose of razzamatazz, the dragon was bright and vivacious, and the fairy tale creatures were a smorgasbord of color and wit.

Director Fred Zirm did a great job in leading nearly fifty children in a seamless production. Zirm was assisted in this production by Natasha Chisaka, who served as Student Assistant Director.

Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

Shrek the Musical Jr. by KAT – Second Stage Family Theatre plays at the Kentlands Arts Barn – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD on weekends through May 19, 2019. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 258-6394 or go online.

Directed by Fred Zirm
Choreographed by Ian Brown-Gorrell
Music Direction by Arielle Bayer

Cast of Shrek the Musical JR.: Camila Aliaga, Caroline Axley, Logan Axley, Gabe Chacon, Giorgia Dallasta, Jesse Downey, Andrew Fenner, Zoe Fischthal, Bea Ieronimo, Lili Katz, Nate Kauffman, Annabel Kotek, Ethan Kotok, Samantha Kotok, Joshua Levine, Cameron Merrill, Katie Musick, Gray Nocjar, Lashanna Ouedraogo, Fiona O’Connell, Payton O’Keefe, Joey Page, Kristianne Page, Amelie Pandit, Emma Polsky, Hayden Polsky, Shia Ringold, Hailey Rotker, Melissa Szwed, Molly Tittle, Grady Webb, Nicole Weiner

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Nicole Hertvik
A reformed child actor, Nicole got her BA in English literature before wandering the globe for a decade, writing and teaching English in Prague, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and Paris. She eventually landed in NYC where she received a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and dabbled in theater as an actor, script reader, and dramaturg. Thrilled by the strong and diverse theater community she discovered in Washington, DC, Nicole wakes up every morning excited to contribute to DC Metro Theater Arts and other publications. Nicole studied journalism at Georgetown University and was a 2019 fellow at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Critics Institute. Email: nicole@dcmetrotheaterarts.com, Instagram: @nicolehertvik, Twitter: @nicolehertvik, Facebook: Nicole Hertvik.

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