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Shrek The Musical
An Encore Production

An audition-only cast, featuring performers ages 13-22

This show is Rated G

Music by Jeanine Tesori
Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig

February 24-March 5, 2017
Harris Center at Folsom Lake College

Director/Choreographer: Debbie Wilson
Vocal Director: Jennifer Wittmayer
Costumer: Christine Martorana

Theatrical Review – Shrek The Musical

By Dick Frantzreb

I just saw opening night of El Dorado Musical Theatre’s Shrek the Musical. Can we talk? Maybe you’re an adult thinking this is a kid show, and a silly one at that. Wrong! For me, watching this production was like reading a novel full of cultural or literary references. The more you “get,” the more satisfying the experience is. And Shrek was loaded with mostly humorous references to musicals, movies, songs of past decades, fairy tales, and other cultural references. I could imagine a contest among viewers to see who could spot the most references.

But seeing this show wasn’t just an intellectual exercise: it was loaded with humor of all kinds – cerebral, slapstick, “low” (you can guess what I mean): in short, humor that both adults and kids can appreciate. But I must say that I laughed a lot more than the 8 kids sitting next to me in my row. And the humor wouldn’t have worked as well, were it not for the brilliant staging and stunning performances by the cast. Let me insert here, that I saw the touring company of Shrek the Musical a few years ago, and all I remember is being mildly disappointed. This production, on the other hand, was dazzling.

First and foremost, the show is a musical, but none of its songs have been covered by popular singers, so none of them are familiar. But I really enjoyed them, from the very first “Big Bright Beautiful World,” loaded with laughs, in which the young Shrek is sent off into the world (at the age of 7) by his parents. The songs represent a variety of pop styles, and many were as hilarious as the first, a few even touching. But the best part is that they were so well done. The solos and duets were performed by teenagers with outstanding voices and song styling. For example, I could watch Kelly Maur (Princess Fiona) and Zach Wilson (Shrek) perform “I Think I Got You Beat” over and over. And as so often happens in EDMT productions, I spotted a lot of wonderful young talent (younger than the 17- to 19-year-old leads). I can’t name all of them, but 13-year-old Emily Hobbs sang beautifully as the Young Fiona. Then the glow of her performance was carried on by 15-year-old Nittany Biggs as the Teen Fiona.

So many of group numbers were simply eye-popping. From past High Voltage shows, I’ve learned to love “Freak Flag,” and it was great to feel its energy again. But added to that, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the Duloc Dancers: 32 performers with plastic blond Pageboy wigs, red boots and gloves, short red skirts, with blue tights and red vests – and red cheeks. And the only way to tell the boys from the girls was that the boys had yellow bowties. As the outfitting of the Duloc Dancers illustrates, the costumes and make-up in Shrek were extraordinary in their variety and complexity. But besides being impressive in themselves, there were so many costume changes that it felt like the cast was much bigger than the 32 listed in the playbill.

Then there was the element in this show that you won’t get in other productions: Zach Wilson’s professional-quality projections that give amazing presence and depth to each scene. His illustrations of the jokes in the dialog were clever, and the animated lake of molten lava (to go along with the real steam and red lights) made the trip to the dragon’s lair scarier than the dragon itself (and the multi-actor dragon was one of the great props in this show). With professionally crafted props, costumes, and projections, this production was nothing short of kaleidoscopic.

Above all, the acting was superb. Veteran Zach Wilson as Shrek showed he can sing and dance his way brilliantly through any part. And EDMT’s go-to diva, Kelly Maur, sang, danced and acted to her usual standard. Surely she is Broadway-bound. Stephen Knoble gave a great Eddie Murphy interpretation as the irrepressible Donkey. And Dalton Johnson delivered an over-the-top performance as Lord Farquaad. It was impossible not to laugh at the way he moved on his knees, but most impressive was his inspired portrayal of this outrageous comic character.

As always, this show was loaded with outstanding dance numbers, each full of energy, each visually arresting, and most appropriately for this story – enhanced with creative, quirky effects. For example, in one scene most of the marching soldiers were carrying rifles, but one was carrying a rolling pin and another a whisk. Later on the Pied Piper couldn’t get animals to follow him until Fiona played the flute (or whatever), and then with the curtain raised a foot and a half, you saw the tap dancing feet of dozens of rats. The curtain went up and voilà, it was a send-up of 42nd Street. There were so many other clever, humorous touches: Fiona sang a duet with a bird, almost like the scene in Mary Poppins, except Fiona hit a high note and the bird exploded. The Three Blind Mice were a Las Vegas-style lounge act and a hoot to watch and hear. Lord Farquaad’s horse went off-stage backwards, and you heard the sound of back-up warning beeps. This show was an explosion of imagination.

Then when you thought it was all over and actors were taking well-earned bows, a drum set rolled in at stage left, Lord Farquaad and Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf came out with electric guitars, and everyone on stage began clapping rhythmically and dancing to The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer.” It was a high-energy, joyful ending to a show that was already loaded with fun. Thinking about it on the way home, it took a half-hour for my smile to fade.

Shrek The Musical Shakes up the Harris Center

A review by Ken Kiunke
for Gold Country Publications

Take your typical fairy tale story, throw in every random character you can think of, and shake it all up. What comes out is Shrek, first as a children’s book, then the hugely successful Dreamworks animated film, and finally a Broadway musical. This is a story where the monsters are the heroes, and the usual heroes turn out to be bad guys, or merely freaks themselves. The message is to accept everyone for who they are, and there’s a lot of fun to be had delivering that message.

El Dorado Musical Theatre (EDMT) is presenting Shrek The Musical for the first time, and opened Friday at Folsom’s Harris Center for the Arts. EDMT is the high-quality youth theatre company that presents five major musicals each season. Shrek is one of their “Encore Shows,” meaning the cast is audition only, and 12 years or older. Though all of the EDMT shows are professional-level productions, Encore Shows are always a highlight for the best talent.

Most of us are familiar with the Shrek movie; starring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz; and the stage musical follows the same basic story, with the addition of music by Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire. The story opens with young ogre Shrek being sent away by his parents, and dozens of familiar fairytale characters are banished from their home to the swamp Shrek has claimed for his own. Though presented tongue-in-cheek, it is a fairly somber opening. But when Shrek, played by Zach Wilson, meets Donkey, played by Stephen Knoble, the shows starts to come alive.

Zach Wilson is starring in his 42nd EDMT show, and fans of the company have seen him grow from the little kid with glasses, in shows like Peter Pan, to become a leading man for the company, with roles like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of OZ, and Cornelius in Hello, Dolly!. Under costuming and make-up, he inhabits the role of Shrek and makes it his own. He and Stephen Knoble wisely take very little from Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy in their characterizations of the reluctant buddies, with just a hint of Myers’ Scottish accent and Murphy’s streetwise Donkey. They have great moments together throughout the show in songs like “Don’t Let Me Go” and “Travel Song” as they build their relationship.

The show really takes off with the introduction of Lord Farquaad, brilliantly played by Dalton Johnson. The “vertically challenged” Farquaar bursts on the scene with the company of Dulac Dancers—the people of the kingdom of Dulac all dressed in exactly the same colorful outfits—and sings “What’s Up Dulac?” Channeling a bit of Jim Carrey in the role, Johnson portrays the primping, short-tempered ruler of the land with great humor, lighting up the stage with his cocky attitude, great singing, and “special-effect” dancing (which you have to see to believe.)

The most effective scene of the show comes with the introduction of the fourth lead character, Princess Fiona. We meet her locked in her castle tower, as 13-year-old Emily Hobbs sings “I Know It’s Today,” hoping her dreams will come true. My first impression was “Wow, she’s a great singer, but she’s kind of young to be the leading lady.” But then she transforms into Nittany Biggs as “Teen Fiona,” and then Kelly Maur as our true grown-up leading lady. The three then complete the song in lovely three part harmony. Maur, who is in her 23rd EDMT show, later joins Wilson and Knoble in another wonderful moment when the three sing “Who’d I Be” as they each express their inner hopes in interweaving melodies, closing the first act.

Another standout scene is the appearance of the great dragon that guards the castle where Fiona is held prisoner. As the actual dragon appears on stage, she is voiced by a three-part girl group, played by Jordan Soto, Emily Martorana, and Jocelyn Haney. Dressed like a classic 60s group like the Supremes, they show the dragon’s affections for Donkey in the songs “Forever” and “This is How a Dream Comes True.” It’s a clever way to present the story, and the girls do a great job singing and acting the part of the diva dragon. Other great numbers featuring the whole company are Fiona’s song “Morning Person,” which features the Pied Piper (Evan Martorana) and his tap dancing rats, and the closing song, “I’m A Believer”, written by Neil Diamond and featuring the appropriate lyrics “I thought love was only true in fairy tales, meant for someone else, but not for me…But then I saw her face, now I’m a believer.”

That old lesson that “everyone is beautiful in their own way,” told by artists from Ray Stevens to Mr. Rogers, is delivered in a fun, uplifting and funny way by Shrek The Musical, and presented by EDMT in their usual high quality by Director Debbie Wilson, supported by Producer Alicia Soto, Vocal Director Jennifer Wittmayer, and Costumer Christine Martorana, with help from countless volunteers, including several cast members. Wilson said they had over 100 wigs and 10 racks of costumes ready for the 36 performers, the highest rack-to-performer ratio they’ve ever had, with over 400 costume pieces in the “What’s Up Dulac” number alone.

2017 Shrek the Musical cast list