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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre continues its 2017 season with a very ambitious production of Shrek – The Musical. Based on the 2001 DreamWorks film, “Shrek”, the show is directed and choreographed by Ron Morgan, with musical director Terry Woods conducting the lively score. Book and lyrics are by Pulitzer-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and music is by Jeanine Tesori.

As I say, the show is an ambitious endeavor, especially relating to costuming (provided with many flourishes by Travis Grant and MSMT Costumes), makeup design (accomplished here by the incomparable Daniel Klingler) and wig design (rendered by Kurt Alger). Michael Layton provides the swamp, forest, and castle scenic design, and Ryan Koharchik handles the lighting.

Donkey urges Shrek to Make A Move

From left: Emily Grace Tucker (Fiona), Julius Thomas II (Donkey) and Peter Scharbrough (Shrek) in a scene from Beef & Boards’ production of “Shrek – The Musical”.

Most of the characters from the film come alive onstage, led by Peter Scharbrough as the stoically grumpy ogre, Shrek. Scharbrough overcomes the necessary encumbrance of his extreme makeup to give a fully realized performance. His strong voice is well-suited for the part, and he comes through with a truly fine rendition of Shrek’s various emotions in his quest to save a princess in order to save his swamp. On the way, he meets Donkey, played with an original flair by Julius Thomas III. Thomas manages to incorporate all the silly fun of the movie’s character while never copying the Eddie Murphy depiction. His animated dynamism resulted in many of the laughs the show generated for a younger than normal audience.

Princess Fiona, whose release is the object of Shrek’s travels, gets three portraits in the story-telling. We meet Young Fiona and Teen Fiona – done in brief but skilled portrayals by Emery Allen and Reagan Minnette, and Fiona (the impatiently-waiting-in-a-tower-for-her-prince maiden) in a spirited offering by Emily Grace Tucker. Ms. Tucker finds just the right measure of spunkiness for the princess, topped off by her sensational vocal talents.

What's Up Duloc

John Vessels (as Lord Farquaad, center) and members of the ensemble in a scene from Beef & Boards’ production of “Shrek”.

John Vessels is dastardly and comical as the height-disadvantaged Lord Farquaad. Vessels’ penchant for physical comedy is somewhat stymied by his visually humorous but physically demanding short-guy costume, which seems to put him at a disadvantage at times. His energetic performance is just what is needed though, and he comes through it all in fine stead.

Donkey meets Dragon

From left: Julius Thomas III as Donkey faces Dragon, voiced by Kelly Teal Goyette, in a scene from Beef & Boards’ production of “Shrek – The Musical”.

Kelly Teal Goyette plays a number of roles but is most notable as the voice of Dragon – a huge three-man puppet that dominates the stage during its scenes. Cody Knable ably takes front and center as Pinocchio, complete with a tricky wooden nose. And Sean Seager is a standout as a cross-dressed Big Bad Wolf. At times, there is a stage full of fairy tale characters, well-played by the ensemble of actors and dancers, and by the corps of young school-aged players. A total of 20 performers are needed to tell this story and they are all graced with talented voices and feet.

Freak Flag

Fairy tale characters in a scene from Beef & Boards’ production of “Shrek – The Musical”.

Bottomline: This may have been a tough show to mount, but with rare exception B&B has given us a superb event for kids and family. Some great features for young audience members are that the story is so familiar, and that all the characters come to life with such vivid panache.

Shrek – The Musical continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through July 2nd. Show times and reservations can be viewed at http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the box office at  317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry
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