Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Wheelock Family Theatre Closes Its Season With "Shrek The Musical" - A Total Delight For All Ages

There is another Green Monster lurking in the Fenway neighborhood these days.  It is not the one in Left Field at Fenway Park off of which baseballs bounce.  It is the ogre Shrek off of whom emanate monstrous and swampish miasmas and B.O.  Yet, in his own way, he is charming as the star of "Shrek The Musical," currently on stage at the Wheelock Family Theatre.  This production is a total delight for audience members of all ages.  Children will delight in the mash-up of many familiar fairy tale characters who have been evicted by Lord Farquaad and forced to relocated to the swamp where Shrek hangs out in isolation.  He is not pleased to have his privacy invaded, and as a consequence, entertaining shenanigans ensue.  Adults will enjoy the same tale, but will also note the many references to the world of Disney that are poked at and satirized by the writing of the brilliant David Lindsay-Abaire.

Shelley Bolman magnificently helms this production as Director, herding a large menagerie of actors playing roles that we are all familiar with - Donkey, Pinocchio, Fairy Godmother, Captain Hook, Wicked Witch, 3 Little Pigs, Goldilocks' 3 Bears, 3 Blind Mice, Ugly Duckling et al.  The large ensemble move fluidly on the Wheelock stage using Mr. Bolman's blocking and the nimble choreography of Patricia Manalo Bochnak.  The production comes to life, as well, due to the artistry of Musical Director Matthew Stern, Set Designer Matthew T. Lazure, Lighting Designer Scott Bolman, Sound Designer Roger J. Moore and Costume Designer Charles G. Baldwin.  I must note that the spectacular costumes by Mr. Baldwin have a real sense of authenticity to them.  In a previous lifetime, Mr. Baldwin worked for Dreamworks on the original Shrek film.

In addition to offering up a menu of Disney parodies, this show addresses important themes of what it means to find a place in the world when you are somewhat different from those around you.  Issues of acceptance and self-acceptance run throughout the tale, poignantly asking the question: "What is real beauty, and who gets to define it?"

Standing out among the strong ensemble cast of adults and children are the following:

  • Christopher Chew is the wonderfully frightful ogre Shrek.  He simultaneously scares and charms as he seeks to evict the characters trespassing in his swamp, and tries awkwardly to navigate a romance with Princess Fiona.  His singing is strong, especially when he is paired with his nuisance traveling companion Donkey and when singing with Fiona.
 Shrek and Fiona during the final number of Shrek the Musical with Christopher Chew and Shonna Cirone.
Photo by Kippy Goldfarb
  • As Fiona, Shonna Cirone is luminous, projecting an inner beauty that allows Shrek and the audience to see beyond her coarse ogre features to the winsome human being who dwells beneath the surface.  Her trio, "I Know It's Today"with Young Fiona (Audree Hedequist) and Teen Fiona (Erin McMillen)  is a highlight of the show.
  • Maurice Emmanuel Parent has some tough shoes to fill as Donkey, for in the film version, Eddie Murphy created an iconic and indelible character.  Mr. Parent manages to put his own stamp upon this key role, with his acting, movement and singing and stage presence.  His song, "Don't Let Me Go" is another highlight.
  • Mark Linehan almost steals the show as the diminutive and dictatorial Lord Farquaad (a parody, I am told, of Disney's Michael Eisner!)  He is forced to play the role on his knees,and his agility from that posture is a wonder.  He provides many of the best moments of comic relief.
  • Cheeyang Ng is a very believable Pinocchio, whose nose expands and retracts in response to the level of veracity contained in his statements.
  • Brittany Rolfs provides the voice for the fire-breathing dragon - a beautiful design  of a huge puppet that fills much of the stage.  She also doubles as Fairy Godmother and Bishop, and is strong in all three roles.
This FABULOUS Dragon was designed and built by the artist Marge Lusignan; a magician in the studio and WFT is so grateful indeed to have her working on this and so many other projects. But this... this Dragon is just DA BOMB! Marge, you rock! — with Lexi Ryan,Gracie BrakemanJeffrey SewellJessica Ayer andHannah McLaughlin.

Other cast members include:Amy Barker, Stephen Markarian, Matthew Kossack, Carla Martiez, Jillian Couillard, Andy Garcia, Brad Foster Reinking, Alexander Eisenberg,
Zachary Eisenberg, Gamalia Pharms, Annie Kerins, Jane ELizabeth Bernhard, Aaron Michael Ray and Sammy Haines.

Fairy Tale Creature Ensemble: Jessica Ayer, Grace Brakema, Millie Chew, Hannah McLaughlin, Julia Paolino, Lily Ramras, rew Ridell, Joanna Rosen, Lexi Ryan and Jeffrey Sewell.

Do not make the monstrous mistake of missing this show, which will run through May 24.  Click on the link below to secure your tickets.  Act fast before the box office is "swamped"!




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