uch to my surprise, I had a great time at Shrek The Musical. I went expecting a silly cartoon and that’s exactly what it is — but it’s a really well-done silly cartoon, perfect fare for an audience full of kids and parents. (At two-and-a-half hours long, I thought it might be too much for little ones, but many stuck it out on opening night.)
Of course, Shrek capitalizes on the popularity of several kid-oriented animated films about a goofy green ogre, a sort of comic, feel-good Frankenstein. (Nobody wants to give ugly a chance, it seems.) But Shrek offers plenty of humor for grown-up theater fans, poking fun at Wicked, The Lion King, Les Mis and more. This high-class touring production features an eye-popping array of colorful costumes for an army of fairytale characters, constantly changing scenery (several backdrops have moving projections of clouds and weather) and crazy choreography (including a number with tap-dancing rats).
Even if you don’t care (or know) much about Shrek’s story, you’ll be entertained by Eric Petersen as the green hero. Wearing a ton of padding and makeup, he still manages to be funny and sympathetic — and, boy, can he belt out an ogre-sized song. He and Haven Burton, as the spunky, down-to-earth Princess Fiona, have a hilarious “can-you-top-this?” number about belching and farting. Alan Mingo Jr. is the sassy Donkey (a role originated by Eddie Murphy), with hooves for hands and more eye-rolling and smart talk than you’ll find on a school bus full of 10-year-olds. The show’s pint-sized villain, Lord Farquaad, featuring a Prince Valiant hairdo and spindly fake legs, is played by David F.M. Vaughan on his thinly disguised knees throughout, getting a ton of mileage out of the physical humor.
I’m still smiling, and I’m not the only one.
SHREK THE MUSICAL, presented by Broadway Across America, continues at the Aronoff through April 24.