By Larry Taylor/Garden Grove Journal
“Shrek The Musical,” adapted from the hit 2001 film into a Broadway success in 2009, opened at Segerstrom Center Tuesday before a happily expectant crowd, many sprouting green ears. At the end, they were up, shouting approval.
With music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, the spinoff closely follows the movie about a green ogre on a quest to liberate Princess Fiona, held in a castle guarded by a dragon. He is sent by Lord Farquaad who would marry her to be king but is too cowardly to rescue her himself. Along the way, Shrek encounters fairy tale characters, hilariously seen here in ways much different than their classic images. .
Lukas Poost is excellent as the likeable Shrek. No one takes his frightening roar seriously. It’s his flatulence and swamp odor that keeps people away. Liz Shivener as Fiona, however, steals the show. Not the usual shy, demur princess, she is spunky, assertive and knows what she wants.
In a song, “I Know it’s Today,” she declares that this day no one is going to keep her from getting her prince. A little later, she stops the show in a sequence in which she amazingly tap dances with foot-long rats, escapees from the Pied Piper. (You have to see it to believe it.)
Bad guy, psychologically maimed Lord Farquaad, is played by the excellent Merritt David Janes, who is geared to walk on his knees, his tiny fake legs dangling in front. The Lord may be dwarfish but he is big on arrogance. Also loud in voice, he really sells his big number, “The Ballad of Farquaad.
As Shrek’s sidekick, the sassy Donkey, Andre Jordan is a wise cracker in the best Eddy Murphy mold. In one of the funniest sequences, the fierce dragon (voiced by soulful belter Kelly Teal Goyette, inside a massive fire-spewing puppet) surprisingly becomes enamored of Donkey.
The fairy tale folks have been given a bigger part here than in the film. Among those slyly poked fun at are: Pinocchio (Luke Yellin), lamenting as ever that he is not a real boy, this time in an amusing falsetto; the three pigs, who are definitely porky here; the Ugly Duckling, not to be a beautiful swan this time; and Peter Pan, not winsome but annoying in this take. They all unite in protest, waving banners for their land rights.
The big moment for Shrek and Fiona comes in the second act when they feel an attraction between themselves beyond their mutual fondness for belching and passing gas. Romance flowers, and it’s left for them to overthrow the tyrant and make their own haven in the swamp.
The musical ends on a festive note with the cast singing Neil Diamond’s “I’m A Believer” which underscores the theme – it’s possible for everyone to find love and happiness.
“Shrek can be seen in the Center’s Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa through Oct. 16.