Butts in seats. That's show business. And Shrek the Musical at the Children's Theatre Company, directed by Peter Rothstein, actually had its run extended as so many butts are expected. You've got until June 15 to see it.
JuiceBox caught opening night with an eager, pop-culture savvy 12-year-old who was thoroughly impressed, especially by the physical comedy of Adam Qualls as Lord Farquaad (who benefits from some terrific comedic costuming), and the big voice and presence of Lauren Davis as Dragon.
Here's the best of what we learned.
1.) The leads are married. Yup. Shrek and Fiona in real life are Reed Sigmund and Autumn Ness, members of the CTC acting company, and Twin Cities parents to two kids. Their chemistry is one of the best parts about this particular production: That musical number that devolves into what is undoubtedly the most joyful farting contest ever staged? You definitely feel its authenticity, like, maybe they have done that before.
2.) In a way, the leads play the movie actors who originate the roles. Shrek has a Scottish accent, something Mike Myers brought to it. Donkey owes a lot to Eddie Murphy, though Ansa Akyea's donkey reads more empath than Murphy's did. The point is this: To succeed as an actor within the constraints of people's movie expectations for the familial is a difficult task. Kudos to the cast for succeeding in this channel.
3.) It's based on a book. You didn't know that? It is. Buy and read it to your kids.
4.) It's a "fractured" fairy tale. Like the musical Wicked, and the movie Snow White and the Huntsman, and the upcoming Angelina Jolie vehicle Malificent. Essentially, a fractured fairy tale takes the conventions of fairy tales and turns them on their heads. With Shrek, the book/movie/musical, this illuminates something about the importance of being yourself and having a community of people around you willing to support you on that. We at JuiceBox bring this up because it's a great creative exercise for kids: Take a fairy tale you know, and write it how you want to see it.
5.) It's for kids. It drives JuiceBox crazy when reviewers forget that children's theater is for children. This show is so emotionally engaging to the 12-and-under set that on opening night, when Fiona, upon revealing her true, ogre self, says, "But I was supposed to be beautiful," and Shrek responds, "But you are beautiful!" some kid in the back shouted with all his might, "NO MATTER WHAT!" There wasn't a dry parental eye in the house, readers, and there wasn't a bored, disastisfied kid either. In fact, JuiceBox bets that most of the kids who walk out of this show think, "I can't wait to see another show/be in a show soon." That's great for family audiences, great for CTC, and, we think, great for the future of all shows in our Cities.
See it, and with some kids.