Shrek says “Let Your Freak Flag Fly!”

REVIEW

Opening with three storytellers in a fairytale forest setting and the childhood abandonment of 7 year old Shrek by his parents seems like an odd way to start a musical comedy.  But then again, Shrek The Musical Jr. is definitely odd... and hilarious... and at times, touchingly sweet. 

Within the first few minutes we had gone from Shrek as a child to Shrek as an adult (a theme that is echoed later in the show) and then we really started moving along. This opening scene was backed by the brightly coloured and enthusiastic company to great effect.  More about them later...

From the minute Alec Muir opens his mouth you can relax. His voicing, his mannerisms – Shrek is in the house!  It’s his frustration with the world around him changing (he just wants to live alone in his swamp) that drives the story forwards. Alec comfortably breaks “the fourth wall” and addresses the audience then seamlessly re-engages back into the scene at hand.  There’s definitely a comfort level in watching him perform.  In the telling of the tale he appears in almost every single scene and really does go through a genuine emotional change.  Well, you know how the old adage goes... Big ogre, BIGGER heart!

And what would our hero be without an equally strong villain.  Nick Goodwin wins (pun intended) us over as Lord Farquaad with a physically brilliant performance.  He is arrogantly charming and blessed with a sneer that is an absolute pleasure to behold.  Never has the villain been so ‘low’ and it really is a shame that his part is so ‘short’. 

“There’s a princess.  In a tower.  Omigod, that’s just like meeee...”  This is how we are introduced to our heroine of the piece during a flashback sequence, that spans the imprisoned princess’s lifetime in the tallest tower by using three actresses, to show her growing up into the Princess Fiona we know and love.  And the final incarnation, Georgia Carnegie, has totally nailed the lovably bi-polar effervescence of the character.  So much so, that the audience loudly went “Ohhhhh” in sympathy during her scene (unseen but for a silhouette) in the barn.

There was a large number of supporting characters played by the company and they definitely added something to every scene.  Specifically I felt that the Gingerbread Man (Nikita Ballantyne) and Pinocchio (Alice Styles) stood out in every appearance.  They were comfortably carried along by the Wicked Witch, the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, the Pied Piper, Peter Pan, the Ugly Duckling, the Big Bad Wolf, a Bishop, some Guards, four very old Dragon Knights, and last but certainly not least - a feature appearance from the Dragon herself (Kim Kardashian eat your heart out). 

Shrek is funny.  So is Princess Fiona.  Their duet “I Got You Beat” could be the funniest romantic(?) song ever.  But Donkey (as played by Luke Robb) was the comic cornerstone of this production.  Absolutely full of boundless energy and enthusiasm, he was like an amplifier turned all the way up to 11... but only when called for.  Luke was also able to capture some reflective moments as well.  A wonderful foil to Alec’s Shrek, as any annoying-talking-donkey-travelling-companion should be.

Directed by Alice Sollis, with singing/vocal direction by Rob Martin, and choreography by Belli Faha, this production team have created something really, really special.  The entire cast was very clearly having a LOT of fun and it shows.  If you haven’t got your ticket yet – get it now!  Congratulations Roncalli College... I’m a believer!

-Aaron Williams