Tag: David Lindsay-Abaire
Taking into account the nearly 700 productions that we reviewed in 2012, here are our picks for the best of the best. Bravo!! (FYI: We’re honored to have the national website Huffington Post use our choices for their Top 10 Chicago productions here)
Big, green, and immensely entertaining
|Broadway in Chicago presents|
|Shrek the Musical|
|Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Directed by Jason Moore and Rob Ashford
at Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph (map)
through September 5th | tickets: $25-$90 | more info
Ask any fifth grader. All those after school specials and heart-felt parent/child talks about how everybody is beautiful are a load of hooey. “You’re ugly,” Shrek’s father tells the seven-year-old ogre during the first scene of the green guy’s eponymous musical, “That means life is going to be much harder for you.” There’s something almost subversive (not to mention laugh-out-loud funny) about such bracing honesty.
And indeed, life for little Shrek is no frolic. His parents’ heartfelt warning to “watch out for men with pitchforks” is grounded in reality. While the normal kids are off learning to read and dancing around maypoles and such, poor little outcast Shrek finds himself being barbequed by angry villagers. So begins the story of Shrek’s life as told with wit, wisdom and no small degree of sophistication by David Lindsay-Abaire (book and lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music).
Fractured fairytales are nothing new – Spamalot, Into the Woods, Honk! and even Once Upon a Mattress have trod such ground. Shrek succeeds with the best of them. This is no grating child’s cartoon or soulless movie rip-off. With one significant caveat, directors Jason Moore and Rob Ashford’s staging is marvelous. Shrek is innovative and irreverent and – thanks to it’s affirming exhortation to let your freak flag fly – a show that feels like a celebration.
Speaking of letting your freak flag fly, Shrek is also a big fat green slice of musical-theater-geek heaven. Insider references to Gypsy, Dreamgirls, A Chorus Line, Wicked, Les Miserables, The Lion King and Sweet Charity pop-up in the score like little balloons of laughing gas. And within this whackadoo land of misfit fairy tale creatures, Shrek even manages a shout-out to Judy Blume, the now-and-forever patron saint of misfit middle schoolers.
It matters not whether you get all those inside musical theater jokes. Shrek is mightily entertaining if you don’t know Mama Rose from “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret.” How can one not be taken with a show wherein the Big Bad Wolf laments the mean villagers who “tore my cotton granny dress (and) call me a hot and tranny mess.” (Which he totally is, btw, not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
The creative ingenuity of the production is exemplified by the ongoing sight-gag that defines the bullying tyrant, Lord Farquaad. His stunted stature is a feat of clever puppetry and movement. Despite the fact that the joke is pretty much the same every time his wizened little poppet legs wobble across the stage, it never gets tired no matter how many times it is trotted out.
Which brings us to Shrek’s glaring shortcoming. The performances are all terrific, but for this touring production, all kinds of corners seem to have been cut in the special effects department. A crucial scene involving a fiery demise-by-dragon looks cheaper and cheesier than a hunk of cut-rate Velveeta. Ditto the transformations of Princess Fiona from traditionally pretty porcelain princess to Elphaba-chartreuse green goddess. Such bargain-basement production values are maddening beyond their skinflint looks. Producers, apparently, see nothing wrong with demanding ticket prices for a show that’s been significantly cheapened. Maybe they think audiences are stupid, and won’t notice the sloppiness. They’re wrong.
That said, Shrek’s cast is faultless. As the titular ogre, Eric Petersen’s booming voice matches his huge-hearted performance. Haven Burton’s Princess Fiona is delightfully off-kilter, displaying just the kind of crazed mania you’d expect from someone locked in a padded tower for over a decade . David F. M. Vaughn’s vainglorious Lord Farquaad has a smirky demeanor utterly befitting a man sporting a Prince Valiant bowl-cut on purpose. And as Donkey, Alan Mingo Jr. is worthy sidekick.
Josh Prince’s choreography is a hoot, from the chorus line of rats (“Morning Person”) to the march of the misfits (“Freak Flag.”) And when everybody rocks out to “I’m A Believer,” the sense of joy is so palpable you almost forgive those chintzy special effects .