Shrek The Musical is now playing at Philadelphia’s historic Walnut Street Theatre until January 5, 2020. Shrek The Musical is based upon the animated film with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire with music by Jeanine Tesori. The first thing you will notice when you go – and you must go – is the loving care and attention paid to every detail of this lovely production. From forest to swamp to castle, to prison tower to Duloc, to costumes and special effects, you couldn’t hope for a more beautiful rendering of stage magic.
The Creative Team responsible for this sensual opulence begins with Set Designer Robert Kovach, continues with Costume Designer Mary Forlino, Lighting Designer Charlie Morrison, and Puppet Design by Richard Bay. Ed Chapman worked magic with Sound Design. Continuing to give credit where it is due, Chris Burchieri led Music and Vocal Direction, Robbie Rory Choreographed, and Glenn Casale Directed it all.
After the startling impression of quality in the production values, we continue to be overwhelmed by the high standard of acting. Leading the troupe is Nichalas L. Parker as Shrek. He gives a truly definitive performance of the noble ogre. Dana Orange is outstanding as Donkey. Mr. Orange can dance, sing, tell jokes, and otherwise caper about while wearing a thick, furry costume with hooves. Julia Udine looks every inch a Princess Fiona and sounds smashingly good to boot. Her Princess Fiona is no one-dimensional cliché, but a fully-formed and sympathetic character. Adam Hoyak is an appropriately annoying Pinocchio who one moment you might want to stick in a pencil sharpener; then, another moment, hug. Evil villain Lord Farquaad is played by the usually sexy Ben Dibble. Here, he is … well, we really can’t say because to do so would ruin the effect. Let us just say he’s altitude challenged. Nevertheless, he is a fine, menacing piece of scruff in the role. As the voice of the Dragon, a magnificent special effect in its own right, is Donnie Hammond. At curtain call she comes out in a fabulous costume to take a bow, which throws many for a loop. Many were heard to inquire, “Who was she?” The illustrious ensemble danced, sang, wore beautifully constructed armor handsomely, cringed when needed, and proved an invaluable asset. Some even appeared as adult tap dancing mice. The Walnut Theatre’s children from their school provided their own special cuteness by being mice, among other sniveling things. Called The Children’s Ensemble, they were separated into Weekday and Weekend Teams. Let’s give a hand to Dance Captain Mark Donaldson, too.
The exceptionally fine and large live orchestra made much of the musical numbers, even up to the finale’s “I’m A Believer.”
Shrek The Musical can easily join other, more established fare such as The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol as a must-see item on anyone’s list of holiday memories.
Shrek The Musical is perfect holiday fare for the whole family, and it conveniently runs until January 5, 2020. Also playing at Independence Studio on 3 is O Henry’s classic tale The Gifts of the Magi until December 22. For information and tickets visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org .