If you were confused by the choice of Shrek: The Musical as this year’s Dolphin Show, stop worrying and buy your ticket. The nation’s largest student-run musical, playing through Feb. 1 at Cahn Auditorium, doesn’t disappoint with its superb interpretation of the classic Dreamworks film.
In its first scene, Shrek: The Musical leaps into that cliched, belting ballad that all Broadway musicals now unleash as their opening number. Luckily, the show soon leaves the beaten path and finds its unique, pluckily neurotic vibe with the arrival of Communication sophomore Chanse McCrary’s Donkey.
“Especially for our generation, we grew up on Shrek, and people love Shrek,” said Director Marlee Rich, a Communication senior. “When people come to see the show, it won’t be exactly what they expect, but it’ll still be the Shrek that they love ... Not everything is movie plopped onto the stage, because that’s not how we wanted to do it. Hopefully we’ve captured the spirit of it, but it’s still our own.”
Shrek winks at the adult world through a fairy tale veil. While the movie was mostly sanitized, this production features pelvic thrusting, drug references and even an allusion to Kafka. This is a Shrek for college students.
McCrary’s Donkey is both more flamboyant and darker than Eddie Murphy’s version. Not only has he apparently spent six years in solitary, but he doesn’t just want Shrek and Fiona to confess their feelings – he wants them to get it on. The Dragon, brought to life by a Chinese New Year’s-style dragon puppet and Communication junior Carly Cozad, was far more fierce, seductive and human than the Shrek films ever portrayed her.
Farquaad, played by Communication sophomore Zachary Freier-Harrison, is an even greater change from the movie version. He sashays around the stage with adorable pompousness, like a medieval version of the Family Guy character Stewie. Freier-Harrison steals the show every time he puffs his tiny chest up. You can’t help but root for Farquaad, and his fiery demise is almost more sad than triumphant.
After twenty-something years locked in a single room, Fiona is bound to be a little crazed, and Communication senior Lauren Lenke captures her high-energy quirkiness flawlessly. During a bodily function duet between Shrek and Fiona, when Shrek accidentally punctuates the end of their power ballad with a fart, it’s Lenke who makes this song Shrek: The Musical’s most organic moment. Her portrayal of Fiona’s wide-eyed slyness, as she realizes she might have just found a partner-in-crime, is the perfect beginning to Shrek and Fiona’s love.
In the midst of all these strong, unique characters and actors, it’s almost shocking that the titular character becomes almost an afterthought. Communication junior Alex Christ’s Shrek has some impressively moving songs, like his “Like A Hero” number that closes out the first act. But his Shrek, while somewhat sweeter than his movie counterpart, never quite comes into his own. Christ is an incredible actor and singer – his Fat Bastard accent never falters – but we know this story too well. We already understand that Shrek, beneath his onion metaphors, secretly craves acceptance, and so the welcome surprise of the supporting cast overshadows him.
The Broadway rendition of Shrek had a budget of around $24 million dollars, which posed an interesting challenge for the Dolphin Show crew. Working on a much more college-friendly budget, the crew crafted a versatile ogre-green background, which smoothly evolved into Fiona’s tower and the dragon’s flaming cave. The costumes were as distinct as the characters’ personalities, from Farquaad’s minuscule fake legs to the Three Little Pigs’ twin-like sweater sets.
The choreography and vocals were just as entrancing. The slinky, Chicago-like tap dancing and the Three Blind Mice’s sultry moves especially stood out, as did the Duloc dancers’ creepy symmetry. Even the puppets danced well. The ensemble was not just a collection of backup dancers, but a group of fully developed characters each with their memorable moves and voices. Plus, the boys’ impeccable ability to hit the high notes did not go unnoticed.
Still, there are some disappointing omissions. Donkey never seems to return the Dragon’s stalker love, and the Magic Mirror is missing entirely. But Shrek’s encore song makes these losses more than worth it.
“When we put on Shrek, we knew we were putting on a goofy, silly show that you could just go to and enjoy for two hours,” said Communication senior Rachel Marchant, the executive business producer and co-president of the Dolphin Show. “You don’t have to ask many questions about yourself, you don’t have to think about it. You just have a great time.”
Shrek: The Musical will run through Feb. 1, with performances at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Cahn Auditorium. Tickets are between $30 and $15, with a student discount of $10 for pre-show tickets and a $10 flat rate for day-of tickets.