Durham Performing Arts Center’s presentation of Shrek the Musical opens with a young ogre Shrek and a pint-sized Princess Fiona being thrust out into the world by their parents. Shrek is sent to make it on his own, while Princess Fiona is hidden away in a storybook castle to await her prince. Unfortunately her prince, the hilariously short Lord Farquaad (David F.M. Vaughn), isn’t quite brave enough to rescue her himself, so he sends along Shrek to do his dirty work. Accompanied by his funny talking Donkey pal (Alan Mingo Jr.), Shrek (Eric Petersen) gets more than he bargained for on his journey and in his dealings with Princess Fiona (Haven Burton).
Fans of the film and newcomers alike will rejoice at this crudely fun mockery of classic fairytales. Petersen, with his giant body and giant voice to match, is a perfect Shrek, farting and wedgie-picking his way into the audience’s – and Princess Fiona’s – heart. All the classic fairy tale characters are here as well, including an especially memorable bumbling Pinocchio (Blakely Slaybaugh) and a Big Bad Wolf (Derek Hanson), described aptly in the show as a “hot tranny mess.” The costumes and set, designed by Tim Hatley, sparkle with color and over the top decadence, transporting the audience into a believable fairy tale land. The show’s many musical numbers entertain with their catchy, clever lyrics and accompanying fast-paced choreography. If all that isn’t enough to satisfy, there’s a huge fire breathing dragon with the hots for Donkey.
On first glance, Shrek the Musical may seem like it’s just for the kids, but it’s actually one of those rare masterpieces perfect for the whole family. Double entendre and hidden just-for-the-grownups jokes abound, while the story takes viewers above and beyond what’s show in the film. As usual, DPAC pulls out all the stops, making for one of the best nights of theatre magic around.