Shrek: The Musical
Venue: Orange Park Community Theatre
Performances: August 21 – September 3, 2017
Book & Lyrics By: David Lindsay-Abaire
Music By: Jeanine Tesori
Directed By: Tricia Williams & Vicki Lowe

Once upon a time in a land far far away, a young ogre named Shrek (Evan Bowen) is sent out into the cold cruel world by his parents with a warning that since he isn’t handsome his story won’t have a happy ending. Meanwhile, Princess Fiona (Jayla Groleau) is also seven years old when she is locked in a castle that is guarded by a ferocious dragon (Cait Couch). As the years go by, Fiona continues to believe in her fairy tale book’s notion that one day her true love will rescue her and break her curse with a kiss which is elegantly shared by the songs “True Love’s First Kiss” and “I Know It’s Today”.

Nestled deep in the woods is Shrek’s swampy home where he rather enjoys his solitude. The fairy tale creatures often scream and run when they see Shrek until they are exiled from the Kingdom of Duloc by the pint sized Lord Farquaad (Joseph Howard). Pinocchio (Nicole Labadie) hilariously belts out “Story of my Life” supported by her amazing ensemble who not only irritate Shrek, but engage the audience with their vibrant characters. Eager to rid his swamp of the pesky characters, Shrek sets out to speak to the infamous lord. Along the way, Shrek meets a talking donkey whose outstanding performance is rendered by the extremely talented Bobby Bickle. Donkey and Shrek’s “Travel Song” left me chuckling with delight. With Bowen’s and Bickle’s impeccable accents and perfectly timed bantering, if I had closed my eyes I would’ve believed that I was listening to the animated film’s witty dialogue.

Joseph Howard portrays Lord Farquaad’s quirky mannerisms to a tee as he riotously maneuvered the most creative costume in the show. After an introduction in how Farquaad thinks the kingdom should look, he enlists the services of Shrek to rescue Princess Fiona. Donkey meets the Dragon whose voice is as strong and beautiful as the actress and her colorful costume. After the charming of the dragon, Shrek rescues a very surprised Princess Fiona (Christine Phillips) who exquisitely displays her annoyance of a very non-romantic rescue. Once Shrek reveals his identity and explains that her knight in shining armor is actually Lord Farquaad, the trio head back to Duloc. As night falls, Shrek and Donkey ponder Shrek’s identity while Fiona beautifully sings, “Who I’d Be”.

Act II

When the sun rises, Shrek and Donkey amuse and delight by teasing Fiona about her future husband, while inadvertently mocking her childhood. The playful repartee turns into a very impressive duet between Shrek and Fiona “I Think I Got You Beat” where they both recollect their tragic upbringing ending in their very entertaining love for bodily emissions. Just when I thought that Farquaad’s role couldn’t get any better, Howard’s interpretation of the play’s antagonist just kept escalating until I was laughing so hard that I almost fell out of my seat as he delightfully sang “The Ballad of Farquaad”.

Seeing that a bond is forming between Shrek and Fiona, Donkey urges the ogre to “Make a Move” while slowly peeling back the layers of the ogre until he reveals his feelings for Fiona in “When Words Fail”. After a misunderstanding between Shrek and Fiona, Shrek heads back to the solitude of his swamp while Donkey chases in pursuit in order to claim his new found share of the swamp. Meanwhile, Pinocchio and the fairy tale creatures decide that they are no longer going to tolerate Lord Farquaad’s treatment and embrace who they are in opposition to Farquaad’s cookie cutter ideas. The audience was entranced by Labadie and the ensemble as they marched through the aisles to ‘let their freak flags fly’ while singing “Freak Flag”.

Not only does Shrek, Donkey, and the ensemble crash Fiona and Farquaad’s wedding, but so does Farquaad’s father, who reminds him that his notion’s are silly since he too is a freak. Shortly after, the sun sets revealing Fiona’s curse. An enraged Farquaad rebuffs Fiona and orders the rest of the creatures, including Shrek, to be punished while declaring himself King. Luckily, Shrek and Donkey’s newest friend from the tower flies in to save the day. When true love’s first kiss reveals Fiona’s true identity, the couple declare their love and unite the ensemble with an outstanding “This Is Our Story” that proclaims their uniqueness. Joined by the entire company, they live happily ever after and unite the audience with “I’m a Believer”.

The cast and crew at Orange Park Community Theater all poured their hearts into this production and it clearly showed. The costume designs and hand-made backdrops were incredible. The acoustics of the magnificently small theater greatly enhanced the talent that was on stage, making this the most memorable theatrical production that I have ever experienced in any venue. The direction by Tricia Williams and Vicki Lowe also deserve a standing ovation. In a world that is steadily extinguishing the value of watching films and plays, I’m hoping that fine performances such as this one holds a candle to remind patrons of this fine art.

Shrek: The Musical will be playing Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. until September 3, 2017. For tickets: call (904) 276-2599 or purchase on-line at www.opct.info. Your attendance will aid an art that should last as long as true love. Peel back the layers of this production and let your freak flag fly with Shrek and the gang!

About Leigh Ann Rassler