Shrek: The Musical
at The Broadway Theatre

Brian d'Arcy James, Daniel Breaker, and Sutton Foster. Photo by Joan Marcus.It’s not easy being green. And big. And ornery. And terrifyingly hideous. It just tends to bring out the pitchforks in people.

Ogres have it rough, for sure. And Shrek’s life has been as rough as any other, pretty much from the start. Young Shrek (Adam Riegler) was promptly kicked out alone into the world – a place where, according to his parents, every dream comes true (but not for you), and everyone has a friend or two (but not for you). So Shrek grows up, finds a nice swamp, builds himself a house and a rather unfortunate outhouse, and seems content to spend the rest of his life in the Big Bright Beautiful World he’s created. Until his swamp gets commandeered by the local lord. How can poor Shrek get his home back? It so happens this lord wants to marry a princess. If Shrek will go rescue the Princess Fiona from a dragon’s lair, the prince will give him back the swamp. And so begins Shrek’s big adventure.

You probably know the story. If you didn’t see the movie(s), you should. A hilarious fractured fairy tale that turns Beauty on the Beast on its head. And like so many other fairy tales of late, this one too has now found its way off the screen and onto the stage thanks to David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori’s book and score. The result is surprisingly good – Director Jason Moore’s show features outstanding comedy, fun songs, fantastic sets and all manner of spectacular costumes (both sets and costumes designed by the brilliant Tim Hatley), and some larger-than-life (and smaller-than-life) characters.

Tony nominee Brian d’Arcy James is the title character, and he inhabits his big green monster with just the right mix of orneriness, vulgarity, and charm even through the heavy costume and makeup job. Playing opposite him is Tony-winning sensation Sutton Foster, and in Fiona she’s found possibly her best role next to Millie. Sutton’s so good at being a quirky nerdy goofball, you’d assume she comes by it second nature. Or no, maybe first nature.

Actually, in the stage version, we do see Fiona’s first nature – a young child Fiona just 23 days after she is first locked away Leah Greenhaus, Sutton Foster, and Marissa O'Donnell. Photo by Joan Marcus. in the castle to await her prince, with the role being shared by sixth grader Leah Greenhaus (you can YouTube her terrific performance) and, on the night I attended, the lovable eight-year-old prodigy Rachel Resheff (who truly resembles a Young Fiona) optimistically singing I Know It’s Today with impressive stage presence, humor, and voice as she begins counting the first days of her incarceration while romantically daydreaming of the fairy tale life soon to be hers as soon as her millionaire prince rescues her. On Day #958 we see Teen Fiona in the form of the very talented Marissa O’Donnell (star of the 30th Anniversary National Tour of Annie) who is by then still hopeful for her handsome, good-kissing prince to come, though she’s now savvy enough to realize he’ll be coming with a binding prenup. We sense her frustration level steadily rising. It must have been here, locked away for years behind a menacing dragon (another cool creation by Tim Hatley) that poor Fiona started going a bit stir crazy, and where she probably began putting together the mantra she uses to reach her internal happy place:

Pink. Bunnies. Happy. Sky.
Pink. Bunnies. Happy. Sky.

Young Fiona and Teen Fiona eventually are joined by Sutton Foster Fiona to become a beautiful singing trio on Day #4,823. By then the mix of romantic daydreaming and outbursts of temper are full-blown, her desperation leading her to try to entice a potential prince by pulling out all the stops – a personal ad describing herself as a very gifted bowler.

Her prince (of sorts) finally arrives, and together the two grownup stars of Sutton and Brian get off to a rocky start before sharing the sweet new love ballad I Think I Got You Beat wherein their love first starts to emerge. Literally, as their inner soul (and whatever else may be inside their bodies) bubbles up to the surface for the other to fully enjoy. Nothing beats a burping and farting contest between the likes of Brian d’Arcy James and Sutton Foster. Fortunately, Tim Hatley did not also do the scent design for this show.

The cast is full of other remarkable talents and colorful characters. Daniel Breaker is Shrek’s stubbornly entertaining sidekick Donkey, and he’s got a great Eddie Murphy vibe going on that’s very reminiscent of the film. And it’s no lie that John Tartaglia is a wonder boy as Pinocchio (and The Magic Mirror and the dragon puppeteer), his voice and body language so perfect for the role it’s frightening. Speaking of frightening, Haven Burton is doing some vocal magic as a not-so-sweet-and-dainty Sugar Plum Fairy and as a tortured Gingerbread Man on the rack (or, technically, on the cookie sheet).

Who would do such a thing to a harmless cookie? Little Lord Farquaad would. Enter Christopher Sieber in one of the best comical character parts I’ve seen. Played on his knees, the physical comedian is genius throughout as the vain little sissy man who wants the girl but doesn’t want to work for her. And just wait till you see him in a bathtub.

Pink. Bunnies. Happy. Sky.
Pink. Bunnies. Happy. Sky.

But it’s worth it. The Ballad of Farquaad allows you to see Christopher in all his hilarious splendor, not to mention What’s Up, Duloc? wherein his entire town of happy-go-lucky, brown-nosing townspeople stoop as low as possible to raise their little leader up. The ensemble of townsfolk and storybook characters is one top-notch talent after another, and they give added dimension and life to all the big musical numbers culminating in their Freak Flag anthem. If these freaks inherit the earth, what a Big Bright Beautiful World it would be.

Performance on March 14, 2009

Photos by Joan Marcus

Rob Hopper
Executive Director
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Christopher Sieber and his minions. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Ensemble: Cameron Adams
Donkey: Daniel Breaker
Sugar Plum Fairy, Gingy, Dragonette: Haven Burton
Shoemaker's Elf, Blind Mouse: Jennifer Cody
Sticks, Bishop: Bobby Daye
Bricks, Skeleton: Ryan Duncan
Ugly Duckling, Blind Mouse: Sarah Jane Everman
Princess Fiona: Sutton Foster
Mama Bear, Dragonette: Aymee Garcia
White Rabbit, Skeleton: Justin Greer
Baby Bear, Blind Mouse: Lisa Ho
Fairy Godmother, Bluebird: Danette Holden
Shrek: Brian d'Arcy James
Guard: Marty Lawson
Papa Ogre, Straw: Jacob Ming-Trent
Teen Fiona: Marissa O'Donnell
Peter Pan, Skeleton: Denny Paschall
Young Fiona: Rachel Resheff
Gnome, Skeleton, Pied Piper: Greg Reuter
Young Shrek, Dwarf: Adam Riegler
Lord Farquaad: Christopher Sieber
Wicked Witch: Jennifer Simard
Mama Ogre, Humpty Dumpty, Dragonette: Rachel Stern
Papa Bear, Thelonius, Skeleton: Dennis Stowe
Pinocchio, The Magic Mirror, Dragon Puppeteer: John Tartaglia
Big Bad Wolf, Captain of the Guard: David F.M. Vaughn

Director: Jason Moore
Choreographer: Josh Prince
Musical Direction & Incidental Music Arrangements: Tim Weil
Scenic & Costume Design: Tim Hatley
Lighting Design: Hugh Vanstone
Sound Design: Peter Hylenski
Hair/Wig Design: David Brian-Brown
Make-up Design: Naomi Donne
Puppet Design: Tim Hatley


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