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REVIEW: Shrek the Musical Rocks the Toronto Centre For the Arts

The lovable ogre and his gang thrill an audience of all ages

By: Daniel Horowitz

Published: March 21st, 2012 in Culture » Stage » Reviews

REVIEW: Shrek the Musical Rocks the Toronto Centre For the Arts

I’ll admit it. As an older father of two young kids, seeing another incarnation of the SHREK franchise was the last thing on my bucket list.

I watched all the videos with my 7-year-old son Eli, bought him the plastic action figures, and even developed a spot-on impression of Shrek, much to the delight of my son and his friends, and to the growing contempt of my wife.

My son literally begged me to take him to his first play, SHREK THE MUSICAL, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, and, despite my assurance that we’d be better off staying home to watch his beloved Maple Leafs take on the New York Islanders, he wouldn’t budge.

So, on this particular evening, green won out over blue and white as my wife and I took Eli and his best friend, Cole, (my 3-year-old daughter is too young) to spend some time with Shrek, Princess Fiona, Donkey, Lord Farquaad and the rest of the dysfunctional gang.

And, I’ve got to tell you, from the moment the show started, I was, “A Believer!”

Well, that’s not completely accurate; I missed the first few minutes as I tried to teach Eli and Cole proper theatre etiquette which did not include, much to their dismay, using their “outside” voices rather than their indoor ones.

But that’s okay, because as soon as Donkey appeared on stage, I was hooked. Channeling his funkiest Eddie Murphy, Andre Jordan took Donkey’s already over the top character to meteoric heights as Shrek’s friend and alter-ego, and his wise-cracking humour and inside jokes set the tone for the entire show.

Then again, one reason as to why SHREK himself is such a dour, antisocial pessimist, while Donkey’s glass is always half full, might be because Shrek, played by Lukas Poost, is forced to endure an hour and a half before every performance to have makeup, prosthetics and 45 pounds of costume applied while Jordan simply slips into a sleek, lightweight body suit.

Any doubts that this production was by no means just for kids was demonstrated the first time we meet the “current” grown-up Princess Fiona, played with equal amounts of hope, disappointment, strength and serious bitchiness by Liz Shivener. Her character was by far the strongest in the show, and her personification of a caffeine-addicted, sexually frustrated prima donna, and her self-confessed “bi-polar” disorder, was the show’s strength.

And, to let the kids in the audience know that this was their show too, one great and pungent scene had SHREK and Fiona matching burps and farts just to ensure that the show wasn’t “dragon”.

And, speaking of dragons, this to me was the reason I got off my couch. I wanted to see how a live stage show could possibly harness the magnificence and lonely sadness of the animated dragon from the movies that fell in love with Donkey (talk about a mixed-marriage!).

Much to my awe and amazement, not only did they capture the mood of the original flick, they reached new levels of grandeur with the enormous singing and dancing dragon which flew across the stage with grace, conjuring up memories of when I first saw the Muppets on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s.

So, for those of you unfamiliar with the whole SHREK concept, it’s about your typical kingdom far, far away, when, by the decree of the evil and very, very short Lord Farquaad, played with John Lithgowesque hilarity on his knees by Merritt David Janes, SHREK is forced to capture Princess Fiona to be Farquaad’s bride, in order for SHREK to regain ownership of his swamp.

Yadee, yadee, yadee, insert a bit of Beauty and the Beast sentimentality, along with a dose of current references (Justin Bieber, for instance), enough inside adult jokes, and an incredibly strong supporting cast including a sad and seriously in-denial Pinocchio, and a wonderfully dismembered gingerbread man, and SHREK THE MUSICAL had the audience up on their feet singing and dancing.

As SHREK himself proves, it may not be easy being green, but taking your family to see SHREK the Musical is one of the easiest and most entertaining ways I can think of to spend some quality time together. Leave it to Aubrey Dan and DANCAP Productions to bring us the rarest and most valuable commodity available today, good, clean and fun multigenerational family entertainment. It’s a blast!

SHREK THE MUSICAL is at The Toronto Centre for the Arts until April 1st, 2012.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.DancapTickets.com or by calling 416.644.3665 or 1.866.950.7469.

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