Like Shrek, the Academy Award®-winning 2001 animated feature film on which it is based, the First National Broadway Tour of the Tony Award®-winning 2008 live-action Broadway hit Shrek the Musical, playing now through Sunday at Durham Performing Arts Center, aims low — humor-wise — and hits bull’s-eye after bull’s-eye with body odor, burping, and flatulence jokes that accent the uncouthness of the big, green, scary title character (played with ogre-riffic glee by Eric Petersen). Shrek may be a rude, crude, and very unattractive hulk; but beneath — way beneath — that surly exterior beats a heart of gold.
Eric Petersen and plucky Haven Burton, who demonstrates true grit in her crowd-pleasing performance as the spunky Princess Fiona of Far, Far Away, have great chemistry and make beautiful music together. Petersen also is a superb straight man for the wisecracking Donkey (impishly impersonated by Alan Mingo, Jr.), who becomes Shrek’s best friend, despite all the ogre’s efforts to scare him off.
But it David F.M. Vaughn who steals the show with his wonderfully wicked, mincing, menacing performance as Lord Farquaad, Shrek and Fiona’s half-pint nemesis who cynically dispatches the ogre Shrek and his stalker-turned-sidekick Donkey to rescue Fiona from a spooky castle, surrounded by a moat of molten lava and guarded by a fierce fire-breathing Dragon (voiced and sung with brio by Emily Cramer, subbing for Carrie Compere, and deftly manipulated by puppeteers Tyrone Davis, Jr., Denny Paschall, Kevin Quillon, and Julius Thomas III).
In addition to its effervescent musical staging by directors Jason Moore and Rob Ashford and dynamic dance routines by choreographer Josh Prince, this invigorating DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Productions, Ltd. production of Shrek the Musical features splashy storybook scenery and flashy Technicolor fairy-tale fashions that set, costume, and puppet designer Tim Hatley has created to bring its cartoon characters-come-to-life to full, glorious life. Ingenious and resourceful staging, charismatic characterizations, and exuberant accompaniment by musical director Andy Grobengieser and a spirited orchestra, combine with first-rate production values, not only make Shrek the Musical a feast for the eye, but for the ear as well.
On April 6th, DPAC patrons responded like a crowd at a rock concert, with a lengthy standing that was a tribute not only to the cast and creative team members named above, but to the splendid supporting cast — including Aymee Garcia as Gingy the big-mouthed gingerbread man; Blakely Slaybaugh as an impertinent Pinocchio; Denny Paschall as the boy-who-wouldn’t-grow-up Peter Pan; Brian Gonzales as the Pied Piper of Hamlin; Hayley Feinstein as Young Shrek, Young Fiona, and a highly indignant Dwarf; and Derek Hanson as the cross-dressing Big Bad Wolf — who polished their cameos until they gleamed like precious stones.
SECOND OPINION: April 7th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/12664874/article–Shrek–goes-for-the-laughs-at-DPAC?instance=main_article and and April 1st preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/12581272/article-The-long-and-short-of-it–Playing-Lord-Farquaad-on-stage-in–Shrek-?instance=main_article (Note 1: You must register first to read these articles); April 7th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Glenn McDonald: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/04/07/1111121/shrek-on-dpac-stage-is-spectacular.html; April 7th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts & Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/04/shrek-the-musical-is-crude-fun-for-the-whole-family/; and April 6th Raleigh, NC WRAL-TV interview with Eric Petersen and Haven Burton by Bill Leslie: http://www.wral.com/entertainment/video/9394617/. (Note 2: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the April 5th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/04/shrek-the-musical-opens-at-dpac-on-april-5th/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents SHREK THE MUSICAL at 8 p.m. April 8, 2 and 8 p.m. April 9, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 10 at DPAC, in the American Tobacco District, at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
TICKETS: $29.75-$77.00 (including fees).
DPAC Box Office: 919/680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/default.asp?dpac=54.
Ticketmaster: 800/982-2787, 919/834-4000, or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1250914.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/default.asp?dpac=22.
VIDEO PREVIEW (“I’m a Believer” montage): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3sQGaMzF00.
The 1990 Illustrated Book (Shrek!): http://us.macmillan.com/shrek (Macmillan) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrek! (Wikipedia).
William Steig: http://us.macmillan.com/author/williamsteig (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Steig (Wikipedia).
The 2001 Animated Film: http://www.shrek.com/ (official web page) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrek_(film_series) (Wikipedia).
The Musical: http://www.shrekthemusical.com/ (official web page), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrek_the_Musical (Wikipedia), and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=477421 (Internet Broadway Database).
The Tour: http://www.shrekthemusical.com/index.html (official web page).
Shrekster: http://www.shrekster.com/durham (official web page).
Eric Petersen: http://ericpetersenonline.com/ (official web page) and http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=485066 (Internet Broadway Database).
Haven Burton: http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=412405 (Internet Broadway Database).
Alan Mingo, Jr.: http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=459104 (Internet Broadway Database).
David F.M. Vaughn: http://www.davidfmvaughn.com/ (official web page) and http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=478690 (Internet Broadway Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.