(contains minor spoilers)
I’ve been to The Grand Theatre many times in the past to see their main stage productions, and I have to say, Shrek: The Musical really is one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of attending. The songs were lively, the actors were enthusiastic, and the scenery was beautiful! For anyone who has seen the first Shrek movie, this is essentially the musical version of that story, with a bit of extra tossed in for functionality. While the movie is animated and can really have anything it wants happen, the theatrical version has real people, so there are obviously some limitations. This was my original belief, but I was gladly mistaken.
It’s mostly the little things that really make me happy in productions like these. For example, not only does Robert Markus have a spot-on Pinocchio voice, an obvious crowd pleaser, but some wonderful person working backstage even managed to find a way to make his nose grow whenever he tells a lie, followed by the completely appropriate slide whistle noise.
Another favourite was the first scene involving Callandra Dendias as Gingy, who is being threatened with the removal of those oh-so-sweet gumdrop buttons. Since Gingy is a hand puppet, and because Dendias completely hides herself while controlling him, this scene turns out to be the most adorable interrogation! Unfortunately, the second time we see Gingy, Dendias is also present as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and playing both characters simultaneously. Though impressive, it was a bit of a let-down for me as it took away a bit of poor Gingy’s realism.
However, my favourite character by far is Liam Tobin (Lord Farquaad). It’s not often I laugh until my cheeks hurt, but Tobin was very successful in doing so tonight! For any who don’t know, Lord Farquaad is a very short man, short enough for continuous puns throughout the show, and short enough that Tobin plays the character while on his knees. To compensate for this, Tobin gets an extra set of half scale legs on his thighs, where he proceeds to undergo the various choreographic maneuvers which result in the entire audience, myself included, laughing hysterically! Bravo Mr. Tobin, bravo!
While those are a few of my favourites, overall, everyone performed wonderfully. People were always where they needed to be, they acted to sound cues promptly, and they all seemed to work very well together. I’d also like to give a brief mention to all of the young actors and actresses performing tonight: you were all great as well, with your talent and adorableness practically bringing my girlfriend and theatre companion to tears!
Because the story is supposed to be one within a story book, the scenery is very 2-dimensional, making it as if the background was simply ripped from the pages of the storybook and put on stage. While this was pleasantly done, some of the travel scenes involved a strip of background scenery moving as if on a conveyor belt perpendicular to the floor. Since it was fairly far back, even though I knew it was supposed to represent Steve Ross (Shrek) and Troy Adams (Donkey) travelling long distances, I more so saw it as out of place. It could have been better presented if they were above the strip, making it look as if they were walking along rolling hills. Also, since the whole piece of scenery did not move together, after their travelling, the top and bottom halves didn’t line up in the slightest, which made it look extra odd.
Another bit I found distracting was Ross’ headpiece. Since Shrek is a green ogre with little trumpet-like ears, Ross obviously requires makeup and a headpiece to bring the costume together. The problem is, his face-green and his head-green were two different greens, and since they weren’t blended well either, you could always distinctly see the outline of his headpiece, which isn’t a huge issue, but should be easy enough to fix. I was surprised it wasn’t done. All that being said, Ross makes a wonderful Shrek and a lovely ogre, and I mean that in the nicest way possible!
The last thing I’d like to mention is Dragon. Wow. There really isn’t much more to say besides that. Again, to the backstage crew who are working on these things, keep up the good work! The body of Dragon comes in many pieces due to its enormity, and it really wowed me when it first came on stage. On top of that, Alana Bridgewater, the voice of Dragon, is always nearby providing some amazing vocals, which I always appreciate. The stagehands controlling the different parts of Dragon could have been dressed to blend a little more with Dragon so as to better hide themselves, but as it is with everything else in the show, I still enjoyed it.
Shrek: The Musical is running at The Grand Theatre until December 28th. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, I suggest you bring friends, family, and/or strangers of any and all ages to see this show. Like I said, it was an absolute pleasure to watch another of The Grand’s amazing performances! If I must, I’d give the show 9 out of 10, with the mark lost mostly due to personal preferences I’d like to see fixed. Otherwise, congratulations to the entire cast and crew for such a wonderful show and thank you for an amazing night!