‘Shrek The Musical’: Big, Green and Boffo!

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James O’Neill as Shrek and Anne Vohs as Fiona in Shrek The Musical

All your favorite fairy tale characters—as well as a green ogre, a donkey, a man who wants to be king, and, of course, a princess, light up Harwich Junior Theatre’s production of “Shrek The Musical.”

Directors Mary Arnault and Robert Wilder have staged a captivating jaunt with children and adults swinging their way through David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori’s musical, which opened on Broadway in 2008 for a year run and has had numerous touring productions. An ambitious task for a community theater, HJT’s production delightfully brings together a talented cast, imaginative costumes and lots of pizzazz.

The story resonates with the idea that beauty is truly only skin deep. The ogre Shrek, a big and powerful monster, can be kind and gentle and appealing, despite being shunned by others because of his appearance.

Mathew Kohler’s set design is the woods, along with movable parts that depict a castle tower and interior. And so in the land of Duloc, Lord Farquaad sends Shrek to rescue Princess Fiona, who has been imprisoned by a dragon, so he can marry her and become king. Shrek accepts the charge in order to win back the title to the swamp where he has lived a solitary life, that is until it is interrupted by an invasion of fairy tale characters who Farquaad evicted from his land. And so, poor, retiring Shrek, so used to hiding from the world, has to deal with Pinocchio, the Three Pigs, the Three Bears, the Wicked Witch, the Fairy Godmother, the Big Bad Wolf, the Ugly Duckling, and others.

James O'Neill as Shrek

James O’Neill as Shrek

Shrek is joined by the faithful, tell-it-the-way-it-is Donkey, and the pair set out on the adventure. The dialogue and lyrics by Lindsay-Abaire are clever and witty and Tesori’s music captures the right tone with some zippy numbers like “Big Bright Beautiful World” and “I Think I Got You Beat,” and the plaintive “This is Our Story.”

Many of the cast members play several roles and the stage is alive with dancing, song, humor, and beautiful and comical costumes.

James O’Neill plays the green giant with amusing irony and an appealing vulnerability. Anne Vohs is a charmer as Fiona. She has a lovely voice and her sassy performance evokes lots of laughter. A highlight is when she and O’Neill challenge each other over who has had the worst life in “I Think I Got You Beat.”

As the all-knowing Donkey, Terrence Brady cavorts throughout, offering good advice to the often naïve Shrek.

Ari Lew is tall in talent as the theatrically created short-in-stature Farquaad. He has a strong voice, is commanding in the role and is very funny as the autocrat leader skittering around his territory.

The 30 cast members are too numerous to mention, but should be applauded for the ease they come together for some intricately staged ensemble numbers.

Hannah Carrita, as the fierce Dragon, is enchanting as she sweeps across the stage. Her fiery red costume and dragon mask is just one of the clever and colorful costumes designed by Karen Milkey. Claude Danner and Diana Milkey.

Musical director Robert Wilder and six musicians take charge of the score and Suzanne Hutchinson’s choreography is well suited to the talents of the cast.

James O'Neill as Shrek (left) and Terrence Brady as Donkey.

James O’Neill as Shrek (left) and Terrence Brady as Donkey.

There’s a simple message in “Shrek,” as in all fairy tales, and the ending is happy as the joyful cast members keep moving even after their bows.

“Shrek the Musical,” a production of Cape Cod Theatre Company, Home of Harwich Junior Theatre, 105 Division St., West Harwich, plays through March 6. For information and tickets, you can call 508-432-2002 or online at www.hjtcapecod.org.

– By Debbie Forman

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