REVIEW: Shrek The Musical (Broadway in Chicago)

Big, green, and immensely entertaining

 

 Shrek - Eric Petersen as Shrek and Alan Mingo Jr as Donkey

   
Broadway in Chicago presents
   
Shrek the Musical
   
Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by
Jeanine Tesori
Directed by
Jason Moore and Rob Ashford
at
Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph (map)
through September 5th  | 
tickets: $25-$90  |  more info

reviewed by Catey Sullivan

Shrek (L-to-R) Eric Petersen as Shrek, Alan Mingo as Donkey, Haven Burton as Princess FionaAsk any fifth grader. All those after school specials and heart-felt parent/child talks about how everybody is beautiful are a load of hooey. “You’re ugly,” Shrek’s father tells the seven-year-old ogre during the first scene of the green guy’s eponymous musical, “That means life is going to be much harder for you.”  There’s something almost subversive (not to mention laugh-out-loud funny) about such bracing honesty.

And indeed, life for little Shrek is no frolic.  His parents’  heartfelt warning to “watch out for men with pitchforks” is grounded in reality.  While the normal kids are off learning to read and dancing around maypoles and such, poor little outcast Shrek finds himself being barbequed by angry villagers.  So begins the story of Shrek’s life as told with wit, wisdom and no small degree of sophistication by David Lindsay-Abaire (book and lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music).

Fractured fairytales are nothing new –  Spamalot, Into the Woods, Honk! and even Once Upon a Mattress have trod such ground. Shrek succeeds with the best of them. This is no grating child’s cartoon or soulless movie rip-off.   With one significant caveat, directors Jason Moore and Rob Ashford’s staging is marvelous. Shrek is innovative and irreverent  and – thanks to it’s affirming exhortation to let your freak flag fly – a show that feels like a celebration.

Speaking of letting your freak flag fly, Shrek is also a big fat green slice of musical-theater-geek heaven.  Insider references to GypsyDreamgirls, A Chorus Line, Wicked, Les Miserables, The Lion King and Sweet Charity pop-up in the score like little balloons of laughing gas.  And within this whackadoo land of misfit fairy tale creatures, Shrek even manages a shout-out to Judy Blume, the now-and-forever patron saint of  misfit middle schoolers.

Shrek - Haven Burton as Princess Fiona

It matters not whether you get all those inside musical theater jokes. Shrek  is mightily entertaining if you don’t know Mama Rose from “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret.” How can one not be taken with a show wherein the Big Bad Wolf laments the mean villagers who “tore my cotton granny dress (and) call me a hot and tranny mess.”  (Which he totally is, btw, not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

The creative ingenuity of the production is exemplified by the ongoing sight-gag that defines the bullying tyrant, Lord Farquaad. His stunted stature is a feat of clever puppetry and movement. Despite the fact that the joke is pretty much the same every time his wizened little poppet legs wobble across the stage, it never gets tired no matter how many times it is trotted out.

Shrek 02 Which brings us to Shrek’s glaring shortcoming.  The performances are all terrific, but for this touring production, all kinds of corners seem to  have been cut in the special effects department. A crucial scene involving a fiery demise-by-dragon looks cheaper and cheesier than a hunk of cut-rate Velveeta. Ditto the transformations of Princess Fiona from traditionally pretty porcelain princess to  Elphaba-chartreuse green goddess. Such bargain-basement production values are maddening beyond their skinflint looks. Producers, apparently, see nothing wrong with demanding ticket prices for a show that’s been significantly cheapened. Maybe they think audiences are stupid, and won’t notice the sloppiness. They’re wrong.

That said, Shrek’s cast is faultless. As the titular ogre, Eric Petersen’s booming voice matches his huge-hearted performance.  Haven Burton’s Princess Fiona is delightfully off-kilter, displaying just the kind of crazed mania you’d expect from someone locked in a padded tower for over a decade . David F. M. Vaughn’s  vainglorious Lord Farquaad has a smirky demeanor utterly befitting a man sporting a Prince Valiant bowl-cut on purpose. And as Donkey, Alan Mingo Jr. is worthy sidekick.

Josh Prince’s choreography is a hoot, from the chorus line of rats  (“Morning Person”) to the march of the misfits (“Freak Flag.”) And when everybody  rocks out to “I’m A Believer,” the sense of joy is so palpable you almost forgive those chintzy special effects .

   
   
Rating: ★★★½
   
   

Shrek Cast 01

   
    

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Lebron James in Chicago? Chicago theater stars fight for him

The Stars of Chicago’s Theater District

Fight for Lebron!!

 

Cesar Corrales from Billy Elliot the Musical

Eric Petersen as Shrek from Shrek the Musical

Broadway-in-Chicago free concert in Grant Park – June 28

shrek-the-musical Billy Elliot - Mily Skinner, Cesar Corrales and Cast

Free Broadway in Chicago concert at

Taste of Chicago

 

Monday, June 28th, at 6pm

Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park (235 S. Columbus)

 

Come enjoy the best of Broadway FREE on Monday, June 28th, including performances from Billy Elliot the Musical, Shrek the Musical, Rock of Ages, Disney’s Lion King, Traces, Wicked, working, Hair, and Million Dollar Quartet.

Plus, a special onstage appearance of the Stanley Cup!

petrillo-band-shell-at-night-in-chicago

Broadway In Chicago , in partnership with the City of Chicago and hosted by ABC7’s Janet Davies, is pleased to present the annual BROADWAY IN CHICAGO CONCERT AT TASTE OF CHICAGO, a fantastic, FREE event, featuring some of Broadway’s hottest shows during the city’s legendary Taste of Chicago festival and continues the celebration of Broadway In Chicago ’s 10 Year Anniversary.

For more information about the BROADWAY IN CHICAGO CONCERT AT TASTE, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

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Broadway in Chicago announces 2010 season

Broadway In Chicago has announced their complete 2010 Broadway In Chicago Season Series. Shows included in the 2010 Season Series are Billy Elliot the Musical (website), Shrek The Musical (website), August: Osage County,(website), NETworks presentation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and The 39 Steps.  Season subscriptions go on sale Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 10 a.m.  Below is a sampling of pictures from some of these upcoming shows.

 

Feb 2: August: Osage County

 

 

March 18: Billy Elliot the Musical

 

June 1: Shrek the Musical

 

The 39 Steps

 

FYI: For The 39 Steps, no dates were supplied.

A Shrekcation??

wallpaper-shrek.jpg

Producers of Broadway’s Shrek the Musical have put together a family fun that they are calling a “Shrekcation” deal (I know, kinda lame), to offset the economic downturn.   The deal, available for dates June 6 thru September 6, includes ticket offers up to buy-one-get-3-half-off, as well as related discount offers at Gotham-area restaurants and family attractions including American Girl Place and Madame Tussauds.

outer_shrek Does this mean that the producers, DreamWorks Theatricals, are getting desperate?   Not so much.  The industry is generally optimistic about this summer’s box office, although an expected year-on-year decline in tourism could put a damper on sales.  Producers are hoping that history repeats itself, however, as historically Broadway has posted gains during vacation frames when tourists come to town.   And even though tourism is on the decline, the discounts affiliated with these package are hoping to garner a huge response.  More here.

What the Shrek? Regis Philbin promotes ‘Shrek the Musical’ (and his upcoming TV show)

Regis Philbin - Shrek the MusicalRegis Philbin was seen dressed up in the Broadway musical Shrek costume used in the production playing down the street to pick up some laughs on David Letterman‘s show last Wednesday night.  The entire “presentation” ingeniuously was a two-fold promotion: not only does Shrek: The Musical get some publicity, but so does Regis, who will be hosting a network revival of Who Wants to be a Millionaire this summer on ABC.

FYI: Shrek the Musical is set to begin its national tour here in Chicago.