Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Shrek the Musical
Arizona Broadway Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's review of Into the Woods


Deonte L. Warren and Jason Simon
Photo courtesy Arizona Broadway Theatre
Based on the hit animated film, and the children’s book by William Steig, Shrek the Musical is a fairly faithful adaptation of both the book and movie. While the musical didn’t quite achieve the huge success of the film, running over just a year on Broadway, it has become a very popular title, with several high school and local productions having been presented across the Valley in the past year alone. Arizona Broadway Theatre presents a hilarious, fun-filled production of this comical show that features an exceptional cast and bright, colorful creative elements.

Set “once upon a time” in a fairy tale land, Shrek tells the story of a scary green orge who lives in quiet isolation in a swamp until a group of now homeless fairy tale creatures evade his land, telling him they were forced out of their homes by Lord Farquaad. In order to get the creatures off his land and back into their homes, Shrek strikes a deal with Farquaad to go on a quest, with his new friend Donkey, to save the feisty Princess Fiona, who is imprisoned in a dragon guarded tower. If Shrek can bring Fiona back to Farquaad, who he wants for his bride, the fairy tale creatures will get back their homes and Shrek can have some peace and quiet. However, things don’t go exactly as planned.

The musical’s witty and imaginative book and zany lyrics are from Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. While Jeanine Tesori’s music is fun and varied and Lindsay-Abaire’s lyrics are creative, a few of the songs are just average and some of Lindsay-Abaire’s jokes could be better. Also, the bathroom humor, while appealing to kids, might turn some adults off, and the same could be said about the more serious adult themes, like the very mature focus on finding one’s true love, which might be boring to some kids. However, in the end, the fun characters and charming score outweigh the downsides and the end result is a joyful, upbeat show.

From the leads to the hardworking ensemble, the ABT cast is absolutely perfect. They expertly bring the familiar characters from the film to life but do so without completely copying the vocal mannerisms of the film actors. Jason Simon’s powerful voice excels on Shrek’s many solo songs but he also exudes warmth and charm as the lovable ogre. He perfectly portrays the conflicted feelings that Shrek has when he first meets both Donkey and Fiona, yet we see his overprotective outer shell start to soften as he warms to both of them. Liz Fallon is a hoot as Fiona. She is feisty, sweet and zany, and sometimes exudes all three traits at the same time. Her voice matches Simon’s in power and clarity and her songs soar.

In the supporting cast, David Brumfield is hilarious as Lord Farquaad and Deonte L. Warren is a comical gem as the non-stop talking Donkey. They both have stellar singing voices and perfect comic timing. Their expert facial expressions add to the hilarity and they both don’t miss a beat in ensuring every one of their comic lines lands expertly. In smaller parts, Seth Hunter as Pinnochio and Ali Whitwell as Gingy infuse their parts with glee. Whitwell’s voice achieves some amazing notes.

Mace Archer’s direction keeps the frenzied fun of the show at a high energy level from the opening number through to the finale. He ensures that his cast makes every joke in the script land, and land perfectly, though he also doesn’t make short shift of the more serious moments in the story. Kurtis W. Overby’s choreography includes plenty of fun, creative movement that fills the stage. Jim Hunter’s set design is fairly simple, yet effective, using a large storybook framing element that is permanent throughout the show plus a few smaller set pieces to whisk us from one location to another. The colorful costumes from Missoula Children’s Theatre and Lottie Dixon evoke the fantasy and fairy tale characters of the story playfully. Adam Berger’s superb music direction achieves stellar notes from the entire cast and orchestra.

Shrek is full of fun characters and is a joyful romp through a fairy tale land. While the plot may be a little too familiar for those who are fans of the film, and a few of the songs are just ho-hum, it still has plenty of comical moments as well as several upbeat songs and witty lyrics. With an excellent cast and colorful creative aspects, ABT’s production amounts to an utterly enjoyable experience.

Shrek the Musical runs through August 14th, 2016, at the Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane in Peoria. Tickets can be ordered at www.azbroadway.org or by calling 623 776-8400.

Stage Direction by Mace Archer
Choreography: Kurtis W. Overby
Music Direction: Adam Berger
Set Design: Jim Hunter
Costumes courtesy Missoula Children’s Theatre
Additional Costume Design: Lottie Dixon
Wig Design: Amanda Green
Sound Design: Joshua Tobin
Lighting Design: William C. Kirkham
Executive Producer: Kiel Klaphake
Casting and Artistic Producer: Cassandra Klaphake

Cast: (in Alphabetical Order):
LYDA ARMISTEAD: Young Fiona
ADAM BEI: Pig #3/Guard/Ensemble
GEOFF BELLISTON: Papa Ogre/Papa Bear/Shrek Cover
TONY BLOSSER: King Harold/Wolf/Ensemble
DAVID BRUMFIELD: Lord Farquaad
MICHELLE CHIN: Fairy Godmother/Ensemble
MADISON CICHON(White Rabbit/Ensemble
MARLEY DeGROODT: Tweedle/Ensemble
TREY DeGROODT: Pig #2/Guard/Ensemble
LIZ FALLON: Fiona
ANASOFIA GALLEGOS(Mama Ogre/ Mama Bear/Ensemble
MEGAN GODIN: Shoemaker’s Elf/Ensemble
SYDNIE GREGER: Teen Fiona/ Ensemble
SETH HUNTER: Pinocchio
HEIDI-LIZ JOHNSON: Witch/Queen Lillian/Ensemble
KELLY KIRKLEY: Mad Hatter/Ensemble/Donkey Cover
BEN MASSOURAS: Bishop/Guard/Ensemble
MELISSA MITCHELL: Humpty Dumpty/Ensemble
CONNER MORLEY: Peter Pan/Ensemble
MASON REEVES: Pig #1/Thelonius/Ensemble
JASON SIMON*: Shrek
ELIZABETH ?"LIZZY?” TUTEN: Teen Fiona/Ensemble
DEONTE L. WARREN*: Donkey
ALI WHITWELL: Gingy/Sugar Plum Fairy/Ensemble
LYDA ARMSTEAD: Young Fiona
JACOB DEAL: Young Shrek
CAELAN KOTH: Young Shrek
CALLISTA WALKER: Young Fiona

*Actor appears through the courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association,the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States


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