THEATER REVIEW: “Shrek: The Musical” @ Beck Center by Linda Eisenstein

Through Sun 1/5/20

Kudos to director Scott Spence & the Beck Center for bringing back Shrek: The Musical as their family-friendly holiday show this season. The story of the lovable ogre & his princess has returned with the same four talented leads. Though it’s just as funny, its heart & soul has deepened in this retelling.

It’s not just their clarion voices  — each of them could easily shine in a Broadway tour — but the tender relationships that make it so endearing.  Gilgamesh Taggett (Shrek) can thunder and roar with the best in “Build a Wall,” yet show intense vulnerability in “Who I’d Be” and “When Words Fail.” The feisty Fiona (Natalie Steen) has a glorious goofiness, and their sweet, funny chemistry in “I Think I Got You Beat” also reveals the essential lonely wound inside both characters.

The wisecracking Donkey (Remell Bowens) is still a scene-stealer, and his musical chops let him do a ripping Ray Charles/James Brown bit in “Make a Move”. Brian Altman is a droll height-challenged Farquaad, and the sexy new Dragon (Kennedi Hobbs) has terrific pipes.

Martin Cespedes’ choreography continues to delight, but it was Meredith Aleigha Wells’ wheelchair spins as the Ugly Duckling that brought down the opening night house.

Based on the massively popular DreamWorks spoof of fairytales, the show by David Lindsay-Abaire & Jeanine Tesori is stuffed with extra musical numbers that extend the show to nearly 2 1/2 hours, yet the kids behind me were engaged throughout.  And who can quarrel with the lovely inner message? That even misfits deserve happiness, and our differences are our strengths? As the Fairytale Chorus sings,  “Let your Freak Flag Fly!”

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[Written by Linda Eisenstein]

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