A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW
Jacksonville Beach’s Players by the Sea opened Shrek, The Musical, its summer fun-time production on July 19 for a run through August 11, 2019. Players is located at 106 6th Street North in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. For reservations call 904-249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.orgthe-musical.
Shrek was a notably successful animated film adapted as a stage musical by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire. The musical debuted on Broadway in 2008, ran for twelve months, and toured afterward. The opening cost was twenty-five million dollars and it was one of the most expensive shows staged at that time. It received eight Tony Award nominations including Best Musical.
Players’ production, with over two hours of immersive entertainment by a talented cast of 28, was directed by Jason Nettle. He is currently Head of Theatre at Ponte Vedra High School, and has had extensive previous experience as an actor and stage manager. He is familiar with Shrek, as he received rave reviews as Lord Farquaad in the Alhambra Theatre’s 2014 production.
The story briefly goes like this: We first meet young Shrek (Colby Ryczko) as he is forced to leave his childhood home by his parents, an experience we learn was shared by Fiona as a child (Claira Williams) and a teenager (Reese O’Brien).
Shrek as an adult (Joshua Bond) is a big green anti-social ogre who lives in a swamp. He makes friends with a hip but needy talkative donkey (Theodore R. Canty) who accompanies him as he begins a search for Princess Fiona (Katie Nettle) who lives in a distant isolated tower. Shrek has negotiated a deal with Lord Farquaad (Alec Hadden) to deliver Fiona to him so they can marry. In return, Farquaad will give Shrek the deed to his home, and he will be able to oust the many unwanted visitors, exiled fairytale characters led by Pinocchio (Mason Ebert) and Gingy (Samantha Jenkins), who are disturbing his solitary life. Shrek of course finds and falls in love with Fiona but has to deal first with many obstacles which include a wicked red Dragon (Jazz Zamor).
The fairytale characters have their big number in Act Two with “Freak Flag,” wonderfully choreographed by Kylie Giliberto. The stage was filled with actors portraying Papa Bear (Walter Johnson), Mama Bear (Deena Davis), Baby Bear (Colby Ryczko), Three Little Pigs (Rod Leigh, Adam Fields, Theresa Pazanowski), Ugly Duckling (Claira Williams), Humpty Dumpty (Natalie Ealum), White Rabbit (Chinua Richardson), Peter Pan (Reese O’Brien), and Wicked Witch (Linsay Goldman).
Rounding out the cast in multiple roles were Nick Dondero as Papa Ogre/Wolf, Olivia Wolford as Mama Ogre/Godmother, and Bob Pritchard as Bishop/Captain of the Guards.
Kylie Gilberto was the choreographer; dancers were Abigail Guptill, Kalea Leverette, Lauren Albert, Theresa Pazanowski, Emma Ramey, and Colby Ryczko.
The members of this large cast all sang well under the direction of Cathy Dooley. The show has twenty-four songs which move the story along smoothly. Most are snappy and very funny at times. Everyone, including those in the audience knew “I’m A Believer,” which was a fantastic finish for the show.
Joshua Bond is appearing on stage after an absence of almost ten years. He appeared in Fiddler On The Roof some years ago, but not in Jacksonville. Katie Nettle has an impressive resume with professionally produced musicals. When not on stage, she keeps busy raising two young children with her husband Jason.
The character of Lord Farquaad is an audience favorite. The role is challenging as he is about four feet tall. Alec Hadden is both splendid and very funny in this role, as he portrays him on his knees with toy legs dangling in front. Of course, we have been one of Hadden’s fans since we first saw him on stage in a Summer High School Musical production at the Wilson Center, followed by performances at Jacksonville University during his college years.
Jereme Raickett was the Production Manager. Ian Black was the Scenic Designer, assisted by Baron Tetzlaff and Katie Dawson. Daniel Dungan was the Lighting Designer. Darrell Allen Morton, properties specialist at several theatres, filled the stage with interesting items. Brooklyn Pattison, a high school student, was the Costumer.
Jennifer Balestra, the Stage Manager and Alex Peek, Assistant Director, kept things moving in this fast-paced story that included woods, a leafy green swamp for Shrek, and a large castle for Farquaad.
Shrek is an expensive show to produce and while the modest ticket prices make patrons happy, they barely cover the costs. Thanks go to the Lazzara Family Foundation and local actors Claire Cimino and Gayle Featheringill for their support in making the production possible.
The musical is a great show for both kids and adults, and all seats in this intimate theater are excellent. We found it a remarkable and enjoyable evening of theatre.