The musical "Shrek" is a quirky, splashy, bright, fun comedy at Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood this holiday season.
This big, bold musical, which opened on Broadway a decade ago, celebrates the freak and geek in all of us in wonderfully inventive ways as the story of the title character and his fairy-tale misfit acquaintances unfolds. Leading the way at Beck Center as Shrek is Gilgamesh Taggett, whose rich voice and larger-than-life stage presence are perfect for the beloved part.
The reviled green ogre Shrek has resigned himself to a life of loneliness in a swamp. That is until Donkey (the wonderful Remell Bowens) ingratiates himself to Shrek as his new sidekick. Shrek becomes an unlikely hero through his quest to rescue feisty princess Fiona. Through it all, Shrek learns that love, friendship and happiness don't have to be a fairy-tale dream.
Director Scott Spence has chosen a highly talented cast with Equity actor Taggett and a bevy of accomplished young adult performers. Chief among them are Natalie Steen as the decidedly unprincessy Fiona and Bowens as the needy, overly chatty, yet very funny Donkey.
As Fiona, Steen creates a quirky joy that's infectious. She and Taggett are at their best together in "I Think I Got You Beat," in which they humorously try to one-up each other with accounts of their terrible childhoods and even engage in a burping and farting contest.
Beyond all the silliness, Taggett also brings a strong emotional element of loneliness and longing to his gross but lovable ogre character, namely through the beautiful songs "Who I'd Be" and "When Words Fail." Both illustrate Shrek's long-hidden dreams to connect with others and make a difference in the world.
Brian Altman is also a standout as the ridiculously nasty villain Farquaad, who spends his whole time on his knees with his legs hidden under the shorty character's cape. Altman gets to create plenty of sight gags operating his character's tiny little puppet legs in front of his body, including when he does a wacky kick line with the Duloc ensemble, all on their knees.
Sydney Thomas does a powerful turn as the diva Dragon, clad in sexy purple. Her R&B singing in "Forever" is so hot, we wish we could hear her do more.
This visually appealing show features wonderfully cartoonish costumes and bright, lively projections that also include animation, by Brittany Merenda. They range from thick woods to the molten lava surrounding Fiona's tower.
Jeanine Tesori's score includes a cool blend of pop, rock, R&B, traditional Broadway and even Celtic flavors. And a big part of what makes this musical so much fun is the irreverent, witty lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, especially in "Story of My Life" as the show's fairy-tale misfits introduce themselves.
The exceptional ensemble works on overdrive portraying the misfits, Duloc performers, rats, mice and more. They also have the greatest dance numbers in the show, choreographed by Martin Cespedes, including the showstopper "Morning Person," a spoof on the Pied Piper with some slick dancing rats.
This musical contains so many comical visuals, strong singing, dancing and such a large group of lively, memorable characters — the "Big Bright Beautiful World" of "Shrek" is not to be missed.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.