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Shrek the Musical: A nasty, fun time
Once upon a time, in a land called Thomas P. Grater Community Park, there stood a theatre of local renown. Bigger in merit than in stature, the Sharadin Bigler Theatre housed the Ephrata Performing Arts Center, known to the townsfolk as EPAC. As it were, the playhouse — in its mission to promote theatre that matters — provided annually a lighthearted offering for the entire community to enjoy during the holidays. There have been stories of delightfully cute orphans, coats of a different color, and a man obsessed with chocolate — all told during the holiday season.
The tale told this year began on Thursday, Dec. 3, to a full house of patrons of all ages. The show is stinky, foul, and wonderfully heartwarming. This is “Shrek the Musical!”
We meet Shrek (Bryon Smith), the all-powerfully pungent ogre as he sits down to tell us a story — his story. The young Shrek (Andrew Hagy) is sent away from home at the age of seven, as per ogre custom, to find a place of his own. He avoids the pitchforks and boiling pots to discover his own little piece of the swamp, where he lives peacefully until Lord Farquaad (Preston Schreffler) banishes all the fairy tale creatures from his kingdom. They seek refuge in Shrek’s swamp and he has no time for the invaders, so he goes off to see Farquaad.
Along the way he meets up with Donkey (Michael Roman), an excitable animal who befriends the unwilling ogre. At Farquaad’s castle, Shrek is challenged to rescue a princess from a tower guarded by a dragon (Kristin Fidler) and surrounded by lava. The princess is named Fiona (Taylor Luckenbill), and she too was sent away by her parents at the age of seven. We meet young Fiona (Kaia Kantner) and Teen Fiona (Cora Siburt) as she waits for her prince to come save her. That prince turns out to be an ogre, but Shrek is bound to deliver Fiona to Farquaad in order to save his swamp.
While returning to the castle, Shrek and Fiona have developed some strange feelings and they find themselves at a turning point. Farquaad vows to marry Fiona in order to become king. “Shrek the Musical” is a one-of-a-kind fairy tale.
The show is two acts packed with 20 musical numbers, all with their own degree and style of comedy, most uproariously hilarious. “I Think I Got You Beat” is a flatulent and belch filled cacophony aided by Music Director Cheryl Markle and her orchestra. During this number, Fiona and Shrek find they have much more in common than they imagined.
“Travel Song” is a jaunty number featuring Shrek and Donkey. At this point in the show, I came to understand how incredibly talented Roman is as Donkey. His humor is perfect, singing powerful, and dancing/acrobatics superb. I wondered if I was watching “Donkey the Musical.” Smith (who seems to fully embrace this role) carries himself well as Shrek and has a true command of stage movement. During “Travel Song” the duo get a misplaced and hilarious visit from a Lion King character (Karey Getz, who also plays Mama Bear and one of the Three Blind Mice); it is here I started to realize how well all the actors were hitting their lines. The delivery of each punchline and every quirky expression buoyed laughter from the crowd.
We really get to meet Farquaad in act one when he is featured in the classically Broadway musical number “What’s Up, Duloc?” Schreffler must have prayed for this part because he spent a lot of time on his knees. Maybe he’s taking some things he learned from his role as Ernst in “Cabaret” (EPAC 2014) to a whole new level. No, but seriously, it’s a small part. Schreffler is incredible; he captures the spirit of John Lithgow (who voiced Farquaad in the 2001 “Shrek” movie) and channels the charisma of Christopher Sieber (who played Farquaad in the original Broadway cast).
Farquaad and aforementioned crew are joined by 18 other actors to create “Shrek the Musical.” Without the room to espouse the merits of all performers I definitely wanted to mention a few. Fidler as Dragon is amazing; the power in her voice is as intense as it is impressive. I thought the Big Bad Wolf (Jeff Fisher) was great before he came out in lingerie. Vince Fazzolari truly grew into his role as Pinocchio. Gingy the gingerbread man was masterfully voiced by Heather Troxell. And Sean Deffley really got into playing Peter Pan.
One of the brightest stars of the show is actually what the actors wore. The costumes, in the capable hands of Costume Designer Mercedes Maccarino, are beautiful and whimsical. The Gingy puppet and costumes for Shrek, Young Shrek, Farquaad, Pinocchio, and Dragon were designed and constructed by Erinne Aicher. Costume changes seemed to happen flawlessly as many actors held multiple roles between fairy tale characters, Duloc residents, guards, skeletons, and dancing rats.
The show ends with a performance of The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” which encapsulates the feel-good spirit of the entire show. “Shrek the Musical” is a wonderful time; it joins merriment with love and sprinkles on top a few dashes grossness suitable for the entire family. After all, “ogres like nasty.”
I liked “Shrek the Musical” and I’m sure anyone — young or old — will, too. Oh, and my personal tip for the show: bring an extra five dollars if you’re coming with a little one; EPAC is selling Shrek ears, and they are adorable!
Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He invites reader comments and suggestions at facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.