Let Your Freak Flag Fly! – Shrek: the Musical Review

Sometimes, what every hard working, mortgage paying, responsible adult needs is an opportunity to kick back and be a kid for a night. When our opportunity presented itself in the form of Dancap’s 30Cap tickets to see Shrek: The Musical at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, we decided to make it a full night of light-hearted, childlike fun.

Our first stop was dinner. There is nothing that reminds us of the comfort of childhood like a grilled cheese sandwich. We stopped at the Construction Site at Yonge and Eglinton, a single focused restaurant that specializes in delivering the best grilled cheese possible.

The menu includes classic grilled cheese options along with epic special creations. Last night’s special? The Sheeva – bacon, aged cheddar, Swiss and Asiago Fresca on Parmesan crusted French Bread. The sides – Asian salad and chips – were added to compliment the grilled cheese. The consensus: SO MUCH CHEESEY GOODNESS! (Note: the Construction Site just opened its second location at Sherway Gardens. www.grldcheese.com) 

After inhaling our grilled chesses, we attempted to make the ambitious walk up to the Toronto Centre for the Arts, which is just north of Sheppard. Ambitious was an understatement. Our hour long walk got us safely to York Mills station, but we had to rely on the subway to rocket us the rest of the way to actually make it on time. 
Shrek: The Musical promised to bring the “hilarious story of everyone’s favourite ogre to life on stage”, but we were a little bit sceptical about how they could live up to those claims. After all, the Oscar®-winning DreamWorks film included a talking donkey, a giant purple dragon, magical transformations and an array of living, breathing fairytale characters. This was either going to be extremely well done or extremely ridiculous. 
The first act laid the foundation of the story – a seven year old ogre is kicked out on his own, a seven year old princess is locked in a tower to wait for her prince charming. Neither are very happy about it, but they make do. A couple of songs later, things get ugly when an unseemly ogre named Shrek – not a handsome prince – shows up to rescue the feisty princess Fiona.

Lukas Poost has the honourable role of bringing the gassy, Scottish ogre to life in the Toronto production. As the title character, Poost has some large shoes to fill, which he does with head to toe green-ness and the agitated annoyance the anti-hero Shrek wears proudly as he begrudgingly embarks on the quest that will save the realm and find him true love.

Bring in Andre’ Jordan donning an over the top attitude and a full body donkey suit and Liz Shivener with Princess Fiona’s staple emerald green dress and you have your cartoon character list almost identically replicating the animated film. Jordan’s never ending energy dances Donkey around on stage in the same sense that Eddie Murphy’s irritating voice drove the pesky sidekick in the movie. Shivener reminded us a lot of Amy Adams in Enchanted, who seemed to be one of the first to bring a fairytale princess to life with the innocent bubbliness of a cartoon. The three quickly banded together to create a trio that you can’t help but love.

Threatening that love, of course, is Lord Farquaad, the cowardly, spoiled lord who sent Shrek to retrieve Princess Fiona in the first place and return her to him to be wed and thus, make him a king. While you are supposed to hate the arrogant little Lord, it’s hard not to be completely enthralled with him, thanks to an outstanding performance by Merritt David Janes.  

The little Lord is, literally, little, and thus, Janes spent the entire production on his knees with his lower body hidden behind capes and fake puppet legs fastened to his torso to create the illusion of a half pint waist high Lord. With exaggerated hand gestures and complicated shuffling around the stage, you have to have to applaud Janes for how much animated life he put into Farquaad.

The ensemble transformed between various Fairytale characters like Pinnoccio, The Three Bears, The Big Bad Wolf, the Sugar Plum Princess etc. There was even a Gingerbread Man puppet fused to a cookie sheet. The costumes were bright and colourful, the set changed for almost every scene and featured elaborate scenic illustrations, and the production itself was far and over the top. 

And finally, to make up for the disappointment of Potted Potter’s minor budget, we finally got our full sized dragon! Controlled by four people with sticks (think The Lion King stage production), the dragon was puppeteered around the stage with awe inspiring grace and beauty. The massive structure was definitely a sight to see. And she had her own musical number, of course.  

The second act wrapped up the story, but we found that there were a few unnecessary scenes that were included just for pure silliness. While we were reliving our childhood for the night, the silliness just seemed, well, too silly for us and it was as though they were trying a bit too hard to be funny. 
All in all, Shrek: the Musical made for a light hearted night out on the town with plenty of laughs and hysterics that you don’t necessarily see every day.  

Shrek images from google images  
Construction Site images (c) citygirlscapes