Monday, December 7, 2015

Shrek, the Musical—NW Children’s Theatre—NW Portland

Fractured Fairy Tales

This family musical, based on the animated Shrek movie, is by William Steig, David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori, directed by Corey Brunish choreographed by Sarah Jane Hardy and musical direction by Tracy Ross.  It is playing at their space, 1819 NW Everett St., through January 3rd.  For more information, go to their site at www.nwcts.org or call 503-222-4480.

This is…Stunning…Simply Shrektacular!  The animated movie was very well done and the play version is equally as good.  It is about a journey, as many films are in actuality, to find oneself, their love and their place in the world…purpose in Life.  And so, once upon a time, there was an ugly, green monster, an Ogre, named Shrek (Andrés Alcalá) who lived all alone is his smelly, slimy, primeval swamp in a forest.  But one day, he’s invaded by all sorts of fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters, who inform him that they have been evicted from their home in Duloc by the evil, Lord Farquaad (Matthew Brown), and so they are to live in his swamp.

Well, Shrek does not appreciate the invasion to his homeland, so he agrees to meet with the Lord and get their town back.  Along the way he encounters another undesirable misfit, Donkey (Sam Burns), who’s a few straws short of a stack in the head.  But, being they are both lonely, they head out together.  On arrival in Duloc, they sense the Lord is a little short on humor but he agrees to give Shrek the deed to the swamp if he rescues a fair maiden, trapped in a castle by a dragon.  In short, the Lord must be wedded to a princess before he can claim the kingship.  And so, the adventure begins…

They do rescue Princess Fiona (Camille Trinka).  But it seems Fate has a couple of unforeseen complications in this encounter.  Shrek and Fiona have taken a shine to each other and the Dragon (puppet by Stewart Low, voiced and sung by Signe Larsen) is all starry-eyed about Donkey.  Also Fiona has a secret that might give decidedly mixed signals to both Shrek and the Lord, who she is to marry.  Obviously, I can’t tell you the outcome but, trust me, as in all fairy tales, there is a “…happily ever after” for all (sans one).

The music and songs are all quite good, contributing to the story line as well as the thoughts of the characters.  There is one that is slightly off-color, recalling the “Bean” number in Blazing Saddles (if you get my drift).  “What’s Up Duloc” and the Tap-dancing Rats in “Morning Person,” both show-stoppers, expose to great advantage the choreography skills of Hardy.  The Dragon (Larsen) has a terrific voice in her songs.  Alcalá is very moving in his numbers, “Build a Wall,” “Beautiful Ain’t always Pretty” and “When Words Fail.”

Burns is not only very funny but quite an accomplished singer in his numbers.  Trinka has a lovely voice and acting chops to match.  Her number, “I Know It’s Today,” with her two younger selves (Charlotte Sanders and Sophia Takla), is one of the highlights of the shows. Brown has an extraordinary voice and the gimmick of his stature is priceless.  And the storybook characters are terrific.  I’ve always noticed in a NWCT production, the Chorus is at the forefront as much as the main characters.  Particularly engaging is an accomplished actor from other productions, too, Jill Westerby as Pinocchio, et. al., is always an asset to any show.  Also, welcome back Madeleine Delaplane (in the stage crew), but an accomplished actor/singer/dancer, too, and hope to see her onstage again soon.

Brunish certainly had his work cut out for him, as he had to use his talents not only as a director of actors, but a traffic cop as well.  Bravo to him for pulling it off.  The numerous complicated scene (Ellingson, designer) and costume (Mary Rochon, designer) changes went off smoothly (although, I’m sure, it was maddening backstage).  And the Dragon puppet (Stewart Low) is terrific.  I’m a big fan of  puppets for their shows and look forward to seeing them, as they’re always enchanting.

And there are even lessons to be learned in this story.  Be careful not to judge a person by their looks, as their might just be a gem underneath.  Also, let your “Freak Flag” fly (a similar sentiment in “Be a Merman” at Triangle’s show) in which you must not be afraid to show who you are.  And, of course, believe in yourself and others will believe in you, too.  Not bad elements to be teaching children, is it?!

One thing, this is a long show so might not be suitable for very young children.  Also, as I’ve mention before, parking is always a problem in this area, so plan your time and transportation accordingly.

I highly recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.