The Muny’s current entertainment — “Shrek The Musical” — is a first-rate production of a second-rate show.
Let’s be honest, when they tally up the greatest Broadway shows of all time, “Shrek The Musical” will not be in the Top 10. Or 20. It’s highly unlikely it would crack the top 100.
Still, it’s a cute, if slight, show. It’s clearly aimed at a younger audience and the kids around me on opening night seemed to be having a good time. Maybe I’m just an old, grouchy ogre.
The show is based on the hit animated film from 2001 which in turn was based on William Steig’s 1990 book “Shrek!” It’s the story of an antisocial ogre who finds love and friendship thanks to a cursed princess and a talking donkey. The show takes aim at many of the conventions of fairy tales and features many familiar fairy tale characters.
Adapting an animated feature for the stage creates many challenges and “Shrek” meets them by mixing humans in costumes with puppets ranging from the small (gingerbread man) to the giant (a dragon). Clever set designs recreate a swamp, a castle and a dragon’s lair.
The cast is solid as well — Stephen Wallem recreates the ogre’s unique accent without letting it detract from his singing. Julia Murney and Michael James Scott give boisterous life to Princess Fiona and Donkey. Natalie Venetia Belcon belts out an impressive number as the voice of the dragon. But the real scene stealer is Rob McClure as the evil, short Lord Farquaad.
The score isn’t particularly memorable but a few songs stand out. “I Think I Got You Beat” is an amusing tune of one-upsmanship that sadly turns into a farting/belching contest (the things kids find amusing). “Freak Flag” is a rousing anthem while “Who I’d Be” is a touching ballad to end Act One. My favorite moment was probably “I Know It’s Today,” as sung by three versions of Fiona.
“Shrek The Musical” is fine family entertainment. Everything about the show is well done, it just didn’t particularly grab me.
“Shrek The Musical” runs through June 30. http://muny.org/