‘Shrek – the Musical’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by May 22, 2018

‘Shrek – The Musical’ is based on the book by award winning cartoonist and sculptor, William Steig who died aged 95 in 2007. The musical score was added by America’s most prolific and highly honoured female composer, Jeanine Tesori, who was responsible for ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’. The lyrics were added by Pulitzer Prize winning David Lindsay-Abaire, despite having several Tony awards, David is still only in his forties.

The first American stage production of ‘Shrek’ was in 2008, and 2014 saw the first UK tour.

This modern fairy-tale story was made into an Oscar-winning film in 2001.

Mandurah’s phenomenal Stray Cats Theatre Company, in a community partnership with the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, is presenting this production of ‘Shrek the Musical’ in the Boardwalk Theatre. Thankfully for the children with toilet needs, the 150-minute show includes a 20-minute interval.

Sadly this show finished last Sunday. You could have caught this colourful and intriguing show for all of the family nightly at 7.30 from Thursday 17th May until Saturday 19th, there were matinées on Saturday and Sunday at 2.00 pm.

 

The craftsmanship of set designer and head artist Bronwyn White was imaginative and had a touch of colourful magic, essential for all children’s shows. The dozen sets were built by 16 helpers under the supervision of Peter Francis. The weird and numerous props were supplied by Sheryl and Wayne Gale.

The very busy stage managers Jennifer Friend and Karen Francis were assisted by Suzy Wiseman and a dozen helpers, who had the entrances and exits of a cast of around 80 to control, as well as the scenery changes. There were no queues in the wings of cast waiting to exit, and the large sets moved silently.

The colourful, creative lighting design was by Karen Francis and Clint Gerard. Projections included cloud effects and the sun beams emanating, well done Alan White. The spotlight operators, Kinya Van De Polder and Eibhlis Newman, were accurate and steady – even on a narrow beam.

Sound and technical supervisor Peter Lovall, was aided on headsets and microphones by Sarah Bridgman. Both the lighting and sound cues were flawless.

Mechanist Ciaron McCormack was a kept busy with all of the flies and curtains movements. I thought he had slipped up at one stage when the scrim did not reach the floor, but of course he was spot on, the gap was left to show the hilarious, clever foot-tapping, rat routine.

 

      It was young ogre Shrek’s (name?) seventh birthday and so now being an adult, his Mama Ogre (Alyssa Burton) and Papa Ogre (Alex White) send Shrek out into the big world. They warn him that his appearance may cause problems and that he may be hated.

      Several years later, Shrek (Nicholas Gaynor) is sad and lonely, living in a swamp. One day he meets a band of fairy-tale characters and creatures, who have been banished from the Kingdom of Duloc on threat of death, by evil Lord Farquaad (Paul Hayward). Losing his swamp lease, Shrek is encouraged by Pinocchio (Jake Garner) and the fairy-tale creatures’ gang, to see Farquaad and to regain their homes.

      En route, Shrek rescues a verbose, jesting Donkey (Jioji Nawanawa) from Farquaad’s guards. Donkey, now Shrek’s only friend, shows him the way to Duloc where cruel Farquaad is torturing Gingy (Alyssa Burton) and the Gingerbread Man into revealing the whereabouts of other Fairy-tale Creatures.

     One of Farquaad’s thugs, Thelonious (Sam Taylor), discloses that Farquaad’s guards have a Magic Mirror. Gingy is then banished to the swamp with all the other Fairy-tale Creatures – The Three Bears (Daniel Monteiro Pais, Gabrielle Sampson, Alex White), The Three Little Pigs (Ryan White, Bailey Bridgman-Peters, Max Baker), Peter Pan (Leigh Hunter), Ugly Duckling (Michelle Gould), The White Rabbit (Danielle Taylor), Mad Hatter (?), Humpty Dumpty (Charlotte Roberts u/s Persia Najafzadeh), the Shoemaker’s Elf (Persia Najafzadeh), King Harold (Harry Stacey), Ugly stepsister (Rhiannon Garnham), Wicked witch (Kristie Gray u/s Sky Kettle), and Fairy Godmother (Paris Horne).

      The Mirror shows that Princess Fiona (Lisa Taylor) is trapped in a castle guarded by a horrible fire-breathing dragon (puppeteers Danielle Taylor). Farquaad realises that if he marries her, he will become King; but the King does not know that Fiona changes at night into ‘monster’. The Mirror shows the audience the story of Fiona’s childhood. A seven-year-old Fiona (Emily Tamplin), dreams of a handsome knight who will one day rescue her from the tower. As she grows into a teenager, Fiona (Sarah Wilson) now an impetuous woman, still never loses her faith in the fairy-tales.

      Shrek and Donkey meet Farquaad, who orders Shrek to rescue Fiona, and in return he will return Shrek’s deed to his swamp. The two friends set off to find Fiona, after crossing a wobbly old bridge they arrive at the castle. Alone, Shrek sets off to rescue Fiona, while Donkey meets a fierce female Dragon (Kristie Gray) who wants to keep him for her pet.

      Will Shrek fall in love with Fiona or will they all be killed by the dragon?

 

The orchestra’s musical director and conductor, Vanitha Hart, gave a vibrant accompaniment, and was sympathetic to the young singers. So often vocalists have to shout over the music, or feel that they are being forced to sing in the wrong key, or even too fast a tempo, this accompaniment was excellent; well done.

Vocal director Kristie Gray had the whole cast perfectly rehearsed. Every singer – and some were quite new to the stage – gave powerful deliveries in perfect tune. The main cast members gave animated performances with full depth of character.

The orchestra members were:- on violins (Kristy Hughes, Alice Broadhead), cello (Darsha Kumar), reed (Bec Moroney, Talitha Dunn), horn (Ingrid Waters), trumpet (Harry Josland), trombone (Ned Holland), guitars ( William Christensen, Harry Walters), bass (Stephen Taylor), keyboards (Bronwen Herdolt – who was also rehearsal pianist – Warren Bracken) and on percussion (Mark Beasy).

 

Director Karen Francis certainly knows how to give sparkle and oomph to a production at a sensible price. Then there is always a mechanical piece that leaves the audience gasping. The outstanding dragon in this production was designed by David Hartley. With three or four operators underneath the dragon’s body, the eyes glowed and changed colour, smoke poured from the nose, the wings flapped and the mouth was in perfect sync with the speech – many congrats to the operators who helped Danielle Taylor.

The task of a choreographer is not to simply devise a spectacular routine, but being sure that the performers can carry it out. Choreographers Ashleigh Riley and Lisa Taylor, assisted by Danielle Taylor, produced several slick and fast moving routines. The cast were flawless in their dance movement, the body swaying and the warm smiles. Even with around 80 dancers I did not spot a single ‘lost soul’. Then we were treated to a couple of tap routines, a rare pleasure, along with a robotic, musical box dancer sequence.

Costume coordinators Linda Lowry, Kerry Tarbuck, Pat Francis and the assistants Hannah Andrews, Kim Parker, Georgia Turner, Cathy Wainwright, and Bronwyn White managed to give us an army of soldiers, a gathering of fairies, and a huge selection of fairy-tale characters all of whom were instantly recognisable. A huge amount of work, but with stunning results.

As with the costumières, the makeup team of Em Rose, Melanie Paschkewitz, Monique Kinnest, and Michelle Mathews led by Jodie Mars, designed the fabulous makeup. When children see their ‘idols’ they have no leeway on appearance, they must be correct or the magic just evaporates, however, everyone from Shrek to Little Bo Peep and the Three Pigs were beautifully presented.

At almost three hours, the young audience would have been happier with a few less songs, but as we all know, copyrights do not allow this.

The leads were exceptional, beautiful voices, powerful delivery – they gave their all. Another fabulous production from Stray Cats and MPAC.  ‘Stray Cats’ sets the standard for Community musicals, and MPAC and Koorliny are fine examples of how a city or shire should get behind their local acting groups. This show was in a large theatre, and was a sell-out every show.

This was a production for the whole family, adults and children alike, loved the humour and upbeat characters that made up this zany musical!