by ERIKA SASSEVILLE
If you’re looking for some family fun this summer, you can’t go wrong with Shrek the Musical now playing at Artistry in Bloomington. Based on the 2001 film, Shrek the Musical tells the story of an Ogre named Shrek (Quinn Forrest Masterson) who goes on an epic quest with his best friend Donkey (Kevin Brown, Jr.) to rescue Princess Fiona (Deidre Cochran) from a Dragon-guarded (Janely Rodriguez) castle and bring her to marry the dastardly Lord Farquaad (Jon Michael Stiff). Along the way they discover how to love themselves, each other, and that the key to both is to let your “freak flag fly.” Shrek the Musical is a hilarious show filled with songs that will have you and your kids grooving in your seats.
The performances by Quinn Forrest Masterson as Shrek and Deidre Cochran as Fiona are hilarious, adorable, and heart wrenching in equal measure. Masterson shines as a vocalist in every song he sings, especially “Who I’d Be,” “When Words Fail,” and “Build a Wall.” He carries the entire show on his shoulders with all the power of the Ogre himself. Cochran does a wonderful job with the toughest parts of the role and soars when she gets to show off her impressive vocal range. As is often the case with Shrek the Musical, the most impressive vocal performance is given by Dragon actress, Janely Rodriguez. Her rendition of “Forever” is an incredible showcase of her skill and definitely leaves the audience wanting more. Jon Michael Stiff does a wonderful job with the characterization of Lord Farquaad and easily handles the difficult highs and lows of the vocal performance as well as character arc. Stiff absolutely commands the stage with a swish of his cape and is a joy to watch every second that he is on stage.
Artistry’s Shrek (Directed by Angela Timberman) is full of talent, but for this reviewer (who has just directed two separate productions of Shrek the Musical this spring) a few elements of the production fell flat. The entire cast does an impeccable job where it is most important. The leads are delightful together, and the ensemble absolutely shines in numbers like “Story of my Life” and “Freak Flag.” I find myself wishing that they’d used the ensemble MORE. Songs like “Regiment” and “The Ballad of Farquaad” are often performed as larger ensemble numbers, heightening the energy between the show’s frequent solo performances. In this production, “Regiment” is limited to four guards and the ensemble portion of “Ballad of Farquaad” is cut entirely.
Perhaps the most confusing choice from the production is the change to Lord Farquaad’s famous stature. In the film (and as scripted in the stage show), Lord Farquaad is a four-foot-tall despot. Lord Farquaad is usually played by an actor on their knees in black pants with comically small stuffed legs attached to their thighs and a cape hiding their feet. The impact of that visual piece of comedy is always effective and the script cannot get enough of highlighting its ridiculousness; there are as many jokes about him being short as there are fart sound effects in the script. It’s central to the character in every way that matters in a musical: it’s mentioned in the text, it’s the premise of more than one musical number, and it’s central to the theme of the entire story. Farquaad cannot accept that he isn’t perfect, so he tortures everyone around him to shape his perfect ideal society. In the end, that is his downfall, he cannot accept that “what makes [him] different makes [him] strong” as the show reminds us all to do.
Artistry has decided to ignore all of these things and have Farquaad stand at his full height PLUS the addition of several inches of lift thanks to a pair of thigh-high “kinky boots.” The result is a Farquaad that towers over everyone else in the production, including the titular Ogre. To be clear, my only issue with this portrayal is the height of the character, everything else is played to absolute perfection by Jon Michael Stiff. They lean into the textual effeminate nature of the character with a delightful Drag Queen performance style which absolutely works wonders with highlighting the fabulous excesses of Lord Farquaad. What’s missing, however, is the hypocrisy that makes Farquaad ridiculous.
ABOUT THE MUSICAL
SHREK THE MUSICAL features Quinn Forrest Masterson as Shrek, Deidre Cochran as Fiona, Kevin Brown, Jr. as Donkey, Jon Michael Stiff as Lord Farquaad, and Janely Rodriguez as Dragon, with ensemble members Jay Albright, Anja Arora, Neal Beckman, Brynn Berg, Brian Bose, Matthew J. Brightbill, Dorian Brooke, Caitlin Burns, Gabrielle Dominique, Monty Hays, Cooper Lajeunesse, Josiah Leeman, Carter Monahan, Emiah Pendleton, Adam Qualls, Tyra Lee Ramsey, France A. Roberts, Wendy Short-Hays, and Therese Walth.
The production team features the creative talents of Joey Miller (Choreographer/Associate Director), Christopher Heilman (Scenic Designer), Kathy Maxwell (Lighting Designer), Katharine Horowitz (Sound Designer), Khamphian Vang (Costume Designer), Britt Hilton (Hair & Makeup Designer), and Katie Phillips (Properties Manager).
TICKETS, ACCESS, & INFORMATION
SHREK THE MUSICAL will run in Artistry’s Schneider Theater, located in the Bloomington Center for the Arts at 1800 W. Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington, MN 55431.
Single tickets range from $18–$50 and can be purchased online at www.artistrymn.org, by visiting the Box Office (Monday – Friday, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm & 1 hour before each performance), or calling the Box Office at 952-563-8575. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Ticket fees apply.