What do you get when you have a disgruntled group of fairytale creatures in a swamp, a grumpy green ogre who wants to be left alone, a talking donkey and a princess who needs rescuing from her tower?
A night filled with non-stop laughter. The SummerStage presentation of Shrek the Musical, adapted from the famous 2001 DreamWorks animated film, had the crowd laughing, giggling, whistling, clapping and cheering for the entirety of the performance at the Capitol Theatre for opening night Thursday.
Shrek, directed by Peter Loftus, with musical direction by Karen Corigliano, will continue tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Capitol, 220 W. Dominick St. Tickets are $19 for adults; $18 for seniors age 62 and older; $18 for military; $17 for Friends of the Capitol; and $14 for children ages 12 and younger.
The seats at the Capitol were packed with folks, young and old, with adults appreciating the subtle nuances in the jokes and the kids just loving to see some of their favorite animated characters on stage. Some young ones excitedly danced in the aisles, especially for the encore finale by the entire cast of “I’m A Believer,” which was performed by Smash Mouth in the movie, originally released by The Monkees.
Michael A. Wratten has a long history with SummerStage and local musicals, and his performance as the fearsome green ogre Shrek with attachment issues, certainly did not disappoint. Kids cheered as soon as he entered the stage in his platform boots, and he immediately charmed and amused the audience with his opening number, “Big Bright Beautiful World,” as he explains the back story of how mom and dad forced him out on his own at the age of 7.
Mamma Ogre Margot Rankins-Burd and Papa Ogre Adam F. Jones were delightful in their warning to Shrek that he would be shunned by society due to his looks, and that an angry mob would most likely be the last thing he sees before he dies.
During their group number, “Story of My Life,” Connor Gassner stole the show with his portrayal of Pinocchio — trying to convince everyone he was not a puppet, but a real boy. He landed the voice of the character portrayed in the movie and was totally on point with all the detailed mannerisms that brought his character to life on the big screen.
Same thing could be said of Brandin Smalls who had the audience growing heart strings for his character as the talking Donkey — Shrek’s sidekick — and the only one who could eventually talk some sense into his ogre friend. He immediately became one of the crowd’s favorites.
Smalls was phenomenal in showing his wide range of musical talents — from ballad to soul — with a falsetto that, along with Princess Fiona, could wow any singing songbird into a state of explosion.
And speaking of soul, Teale LaBarbera would impress the audience with some rich rhythm and blues as the voice of Dragon, who finds love at first sight in Donkey, in “Forever.”
He may have been “short in stature,” but Connor A. Barrett as Farquaad was a huge hit as evident from the non-stop laughing. Chuckles would transform into whistles and cheers as Barrett would perform a can-can number in genuine Rockettes style in “What’s Up Duloc? (Reprise)” as he demands Shrek go rescue Fiona before given the deed to his swamp.
And fans of the film who were wondering if they’d be treated to an appearance by their favorite gingerbread cookie need not be worried. Jessica Lotyczewski amazingly pulled off the voice of the tortured Gingy and would continue to delight as the Sugar Plum Fairy, along with her pal on the cookie sheet.
The young Fiona, performed by Gianna Libertella, most definitely impressed with such a big voice coming from such a small girl. Teen Fiona Abby Adler charmed the audience into an instantly-captivating portrayal of the demanding princess by Jessica Kaczor. Kaczor’s lovely pipes continued to delight during her solo in “Morning Person,” and her duet with Wratten in “I Think I Got You Beat,” had the audience laughing and rooting for a union between beauty and beast.
From fun musical numbers performed by a talented group of musicians to incredible sets supported by a group of multi-tasking stage hands that successfully brought a swamp, dragon-guarded tower and Kingdom of Duloc to life, Shrek the Musical surely pleased the kids and kids in all of us.