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Theatre Review (LA): Shrek The Musical by David Lindsey-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori at the Pantages

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Shrek is the perfect summer musical. It’s sunny, bright, and the whole family can partake. The kids will love it and there is enough humor for even the most jaded adult. Shrek The Musical is, of course, based on the hit movie by the same name. The book by David Lindsey-Abaire is based on the story and characters from William Steig’s book Shrek as well as the DreamWorks Animation film Shrek, the first in the movie series. The music is by Olivier Award-winner Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Caroline, or Change). The musical is directed by Tony-nominee Jason Moore (Avenue Q) and Tony-winner Rob Ashford (Promises Promises). Sets and costumes are by Tim Hatley, lighting design by Josh Prince, with music direction by Andy Grobengeiser.

The story is the familiar one: Shrek, an ogre, lives in a swamp but is besieged by a whole bunch of storybook characters including the Three Bears, Humpty Dumpty, the Ugly Duckling, Peter Pan, and Pinocchio, who have been thrown out of their land. Shrek sets off on an adventure along with a donkey to reclaim the title to his land by rescuing a princess who is enslaved by a fierce dragon. The princess, Fiona, is betrothed to the very short Prince Lord Farquaad. Along the way Shrek falls in love with Fiona and discovers that true love exists outside of fairy tales.

The cast is first-rate, led by Erik Peterson as the ogre himself. Haven Burton is the fair Fiona, Alan Mingo Jr. is Donkey, and David F.M. Vaughn is the short Lord Farquaad. The first thing you notice about the cast is that they all have terrific voices. Of these lead characters, I had some reservations only about Alan Mingo Jr. as Donkey. While he could sing and dance, he lacked the sense of humor of his counterpart in the movie, the brilliant Eddie Murphy.

I did have some trouble understanding many of the lyrics due to the timbre of certain characters’ voices (especially Pinocchio’s) as well as the cranked up sound system that is always troublesome at the Pantages. But as I said, this is a bright, breezy musical, full of catchy tunes, great singing, and comedic high jinks. Shrek The Musical will play at the Pantages until July 31. GO SEE IT!

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