Friday, May 1, 2015

theatre review - SHREK THE MUSICAL - Desert Stages Theatre - April 25, 2015

Brandy Reed and Geoffrey Goorin
photo: Heather Butcher
"The animated movie Shrek was a huge hit when it was released in 2001, Shrek was also turned into a big Broadway musical in 2008. Unfortunately, the musical adaptation didn't fare quite as well, running just over a year. It has a fun score and a witty book by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, who also wrote the zany lyrics. Desert Stages in Scottsdale is presenting a production with a talented cast that results in a fun-filled experience. While Jeanine Tesori's music is fun and varied and Lindsay-Abaire's lyrics are creative, a few of the songs are a bit ho-hum and some of Lindsay-Abaire's jokes could be a better. Director Cambrian James has cast a large group of talented actors to bring the familiar characters to life. Geoffrey Goorin has strong, powerful vocals and the right balance of charm and menace as Shrek. Brandy Reed's Fiona is a combination of sweet, zany and feisty all rolled into one.  Shrek's supporting cast actually get most of the best jokes in the show, and DST is lucky to have James D. Gish as Lord Farquaad and Reginald Graham as Donkey. Graham is perfect as the non-stop talking Donkey, with a wicked comic delivery, expert facial expressions, and a winning singing voice. Gish has an amazing strong and crystal clear voice and perfect comic timing; he turns the part of the extremely short Farquaad into a complete hoot. The fact that he performs almost the entire time on his knees only adds to the hilarity of the performance. In smaller parts, Sky Donovan as Pinocchio and Harley Barton as Gingy bring a nice amount of zing to their roles, and Sonia Rodriguez Wood's voice soars to the rafters as the voice of Dragon. Katie Brown and Madeline Alfano provide clear vocals as young and teen Fiona. James does a good job of staging the action in DST's in the round space. He also provides a good amount of fun, varied, and creative choreography and also manages to keep his extremely large cast moving fluidly in the scenes where they are all on stage together. However, as usual in this theatre, the lack of any real set pieces is a detriment, especially in a fantasy musical like Shrek that has a real need for the audience to see the imaginary settings of the show.  Aurelie Flores' costume designs are a non-stop parade of color and fantasy and Stephanie Wright and Jennifer Brecker have crafted a spectacular puppet design for Dragon.  Shrek may not be a perfect musical, but it has numerous comical moments, many that are utterly hilarious, some upbeat songs, and good lyrics. While the Desert Stages production may lack a bit of the fantasy elements needed for this show, due to their in-the-round stage, the closeness of the actors to the audience and a winning cast, good direction, and excellent costumes make this Shrek entertaining and completely enjoyable." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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