Standing Room Only’s “Shrek the Musical” at Triad Theater is a fairy tale for adults that is also suitable for children, even though children might not get all the pop-culture references and tongue-in-cheek jokes on traditional fairy tales, shows and movies.
For a low-budget, small community theater, it is a gigantically ambitious project. As Producer Dawn Emilia Young pointed out in her curtain speech, many said Triad was too small for such a large production, but they were able to pull it off with talent, hard work, and the audience’s ability to employ their imagination. After all, this is the same little company that created successful productions of “Spamalot” and “Young Frankenstein” — both of which had a lot in common with “Shrek.”
Based on the movie and the stage musical, which by-the-way, premiered in Seattle before going to Broadway, “Shrek” is the story of the eponymous ogre (Charles Wolff) who teams up with a wisecracking donkey (Jalen C. Penn) to rescue Princess Fiona (Jennifer Redston), who has been imprisoned in a tower since she was 7 years old. It is performed almost entirely without a set, but with some cheesy props and effects and fabulously corny costumes and makeup (cheesiness and corniness intentional).
This show pokes fun at itself as well as at all the books, plays, songs and movies it steals from. And steal from them it does. There is practically an army of fairy tale characters who are banished to Shrek’s swamp, including Peter Pan, the three little pigs and a crossdressing big bad wolf, Pinocchio, the White Rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland,” Humpty Dumpty, and many more.
Wolff plays the title character as a sad and loveable ogre with a soul, and he sings nicely with a strong but mellow voice. He makes it easy to like the poor ogre who is slow to see the obvious. Penn is the strongest comedic actor as he plays Donkey with an access of attitude and with frantic energy. Three actors play Princess Fiona at different ages, and at one point all three are on stage at the same time. They are: Taylor Gossett as Fiona as a child, Lillith Era as teen Fiona, and Redstone, who nails the character and sings beautifully, as the adult Fiona. McCrea does a masterful job playing the villain Lord Farquaad, whose short stature is the butt of everybody’s jokes — “Men of Farquaad’s stature are in short supply” and “He’s very good at small talk” being two of many short jokes at Farquaad’s expense. McCrea hilariously represents Farquaad’s short stature by walking on his knees with fake legs in front of his thighs, and for added comic effect he wears lipstick and a wig, looking like a woman playing the part of a man. Valerie Smith stepped in as a last-minute replacement playing the dragon a mere two days before opening, and she is marvelous, seductive and with a knockout powerful voice. (on Broadway the dragon was a puppet, one of many changes SRO instituted.)
This is a rocking funny play produced on a shoestring budget on a small stage where they don’t care if audience members take photos and shout out to the actors on stage.
WHAT Shrek the Musical
WHEN 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, through Dec. 9
WHERE Triad Theater, 102 E. Yelm Ave., Yelm
HOW MUCH $25, $20 military and senior, $15 student, 12-18, $10 children 4-11
LEARN MORE (857) 67-STAGE, http://www.srotheater.org/