At the end of an action-packed week, I discovered a surprise: what my theatre-loving daughters and I needed most was an evening full of fairy tale characters flying their freak flags alongside a flatulent pair of fluorescent green ogres.
“Shrek, The Musical” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre is an entertaining experience full of energy, laughs, incredible costumes and POWERHOUSE voices. The Tony Award-winning stage production is based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks animation film featuring an ogre who stumbles into a life-changing adventure and, ultimately, true love. My girls and I had such a great time at the show!
Here are my top six showstopping reasons to make a date to see Shrek on stage:
CRUDE-YET-LOVABLE OGRES (WITH ONION LAYERS!)
It cannot be easy to convey a range of emotion and maintain leading-man energy from beneath layers of facial prosthetics, horns, and neon-green makeup. But Beef & Boards veteran actor Pete Scharbrough absolutely SOLD this one-of-a-kind character. His vocal power as a soloist really had a chance to shine, and I loved watching the awkward sweetness of Pete’s “Shrek” practicing how to sweet-talk a princess. It takes serious acting and vocal chops to pull off a role like this one in such an endearing way, and Pete killed it.
Emily Grace Tucker as Princess Fiona matched her counterpart’s energy and vocal power, and blew me away when she showed off her dancing prowess in a fun tap number. Emily recently portrayed a different princess who lived much of her life trapped in a tower, Rapunzel, on Disney Cruise line. Like Rapunzel, Fiona is no conventional princess role. She’s a quirky, outspoken-yet-vulnerable, sometimes-crude dreamer with a big secret. Congrats to Emily and Pete for making these otherworldly characters so believable and loveable. Like onions, both of these triple-threat actors showed their many layers of talent.
A FIRED-UP DRAGON LADY
I loved the inventive way this production brought a fire-breathing dragon character to life. A giant Chinese dragon-like puppet floated across the stage while purple-clad actress Kelly Teal Goyette provided the voice and face of the powerful, glamourous monster.
Kelly has been on the Beef & Boards stage before, but this is the first time I’ve had the chance to really hear what her incredible voice can do. She blew the ROOF off the place. My kids agreed. Jaws dropped. This dragon lady’s solos were worth the price of admission. Beautiful work, Kelly!
A SIDE-SPLITTING SIDEKICK
When I asked my daughters (and their friend who joined us for the evening) to define their favorite part of the show, the answer was unanimous: the donkey! Julius Thomas, III, was captivating and hilarious to watch as the wisecracking sidekick to a reluctant ogre. He had the comedic timing, the energy, the voice, and the ingenuity it took to bring this unforgettable character to life. I wouldn’t change a thing about his expert interpretation of this fun role.
AN ENCHANTING FAIRY TALE ENSEMBLE
I could NOT stop smiling when the full cast of fairy tale characters collided in Shrek’s swamp for the company numbers. In particular, I loved whiny Pinnochio’s energy (when he opened the show, I could tell we would not be bored!), the wicked witch’s sass and swagger, and the Sugar Plum Fairy’s double role as the voice of the Gingerbread Man – a cookie with serious attitude. Every actor in this ensemble added something hilarious and delightful to the show. I couldn’t get enough!
A SHORT-TEMPERED VILLAIN
“There are no small roles…” says John Vessels in his bio in the program, and he proves that true with his hysterical interpretation of Lord Farquaad. Playing the role from his knees with tiny puppet legs that took on a life of their own, John added many priceless comedic moments to the show, along with his powerhouse voice. I was glad others in the audience joined me in falling apart with laughter when his tiny leg kicked the side of his “totally realistic” hobby horse/steed to get it moving. These small moments (sorry, had to) went over big.
A FEAST FOR THE EYES, EARS AND HEART
I am never surprised when my dear friend Jill Kelly Howe, Beef & Boards’ costume designer, knocks it out of the park, but I always love admiring details of the costumes that help bring shows to life. The costumes her team brought in for this show were amazing, and I was fascinated to hear from Jill just how many personalized touches and completely original pieces were added to make things look perfect. From Pinnochio’s joints, to the cupcake in the Sugar Plum Fairy’s hair, to Fiona’s incredible wigs and green gowns, to Shrek’s green ogre face, this show offered a smorgasboard for your eyes. The sounds coming off the stage were equally impressive. Along with the lead actors who all have impressive vocal instruments, I loved hearing solo moments from many of the ensemble actors. I never heard a weak link.
But most of all, this is a sweet, funny, family-friendly show with simple messages I’m happy for my kids to hear: be yourself; embrace true friendship; stand up to the bad guys; and be open-minded to the unexpected twists your life presents.
The happy ending you’ve awaited in your life may not turn out at all as you expected.
That just makes it all the more precious.
“Shrek, the Musical” runs through July 2 at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 Michigan Rd., Indianapolis, Ind. Tickets start at $42.40 and include a full dinner buffet and complimentary parking. More information is online at beefandboards.com, and tickets are available by calling the box office at 317.872.9664.