I am always in awe when a theatrical production is made from an animated movie. Over the years, through the magic of make-up and sets as well as colorful costumes, we have been taken into other worlds by area theater companies who have opted to bring us “family” theater. This year, in the courtyard Theater of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, families are being delighted in watching the condensed version ( 75 minutes/ no intermission) of “Shrek The Musical” based on the animated cartoon ( Dreamworks- book by William Steig). The music ( Jeanine Tesori) and the lyrics/book (David Lindsay-Abaire) are prety well known by the younger audience members who are quite familiar with the fable that shows us all that “Beauty, friendship and love are more than what we see with our eyes”- it is about who we are and what we feel.
This amazing production which I feel is a “must see” for every family in Chicago is directed and choreographed by the hottest director/choreographer in our city, Ms. Rachel Rockwell who has assembled a top-notch cast of players to bring these unusual characters to life. Shrek, our green ogre is played to perfection by Michael Aaron Lindner ( he brings a warm and loving touch to the scariest of creatures, the OGRE) and his true love, Fiona ( the adorable and very talented Summer Naomi Smart). Just watching the relationship between these opposites ( or are they?) develop is a true theatrical experience- their “I Think I Got You Beat” number is a laugh your butt off experience and is worth the price of the ticket alone.
Seventy Five minutes is just the right amount of time for the kids ( and some of the grandparents) to view a theatrical production and this is one of sheer perfection from start to finish with a bright set (Scott Davis), great lighting(Jesse Klug),beautiful costumes(Theresa Ham) and perfect sound (Garth Helm). The projections which allow the theater to appear much larger and the set , much more realistic ( Mike Tutaj) and the special effects (James Savage) are the icing on the cake. Mike Mahler’s musical direction with four able musicians led by Tom Vendafreddo sounds great and much larger in numbers which shows that it is not the quantity of musicians but the quality that makes it sound just right.
The two main characters are of great importance in a production like this, but in all honesty, what truly makes this production so special is the ensemble, from the smallest of roles to the many changes each of the ensemble member makes, this is a splendid group of dedicated performers who sing, dance ,act and play well with each other and the audience:
Alexis J. Rogers, Joey Stone, Cameron Conforti,Matthew Uzarraga, Travis Taylor, Adam Fane ( a delightful Pinocchio),Norm Boucher, Leam Quealy,Will Skrip and Tommy Lucas ( the three little pigs),,Sarah Page, Caroline Hefferman.Emily Leahy, Rebecca Pink, the incredible Travis Taylor as Lord Farquaad and the even more incredible James Earl Jones II as Shrek’s good buddy, The Donkey ( Eddie Murphy, eat your heart out- he really has it!).
This is a fun daytime theatrical experience for one and all and it is recommended for children 5 and up ( although my 3 year old granddaughter, Rebecca had no problem following the show and was not “ascared” of the Dragon or any other character) and will continue at Navy Pier, Chicago Shakespeare Theater , thru September 1st. Tickets range from $18-$25 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 312-595-5600 or vsit the website at www.chicagoshakes.com/shrek where you can check show times, special events and purchase tickets. Groups save more and there is a discount on parking for the entire run.
To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Shrek The Musical”