Photo by Greg Mooney

“Ogre” the Top Theatre

“That was better than the movie,” said my 11-year old daughter as the actors took their bows at the end of Shrek the Musical at the Alliance Theatre. The stage version of the popular animated movie is an excellent way to introduce children to live theater.
Parents and children were captivated by the unfortunate looking, yet lovable, green ogre named Shrek who lives happily alone in a swamp. The story unfolds when a group of exiled fairy tale characters are forced by Lord Farquaad, the ruler of Dulac, to move into Shrek’s swamp. To challenge this, Shrek travels to Dulac and encounters a hilarious talking donkey. The two become friends and agree to Lord Farquaad’s plan of rescuing Princess Fiona in exchange for Shrek getting his swamp back.
My children especially enjoyed the upbeat musical selections, and so did many others in the audience as evidenced by the three little girls sitting in front of us who danced in their seats to most of the numbers. None of the songs were too long or too sappy. Furthermore, the cast’s excellent use of gestures made it easy for the younger viewers to follow the plot. Humor was directed at children and adults alike, and my husband, who normally doesn’t like children’s shows, laughed the most of all of us.
In addition to the versatile scenery (especially the montage of Princess Fiona as a child, teen and adult), I was impressed with the clever use of puppets for several characters.  The Three Little Pigs are portrayed by a single, three-sided puppet operated by the Wicked Witch. Pinocchio is a wooden marionette (but his nose still manages to grow when he tells a lie) and the dragon that guards Princess Fiona’s tower is an enormous puppet orchestrated by three people. My personal favorite was the Gingerbread Man, a hand puppet splayed on a cookie sheet!
All these elements held the audience’s attention throughout the 90-minute performance, allowing the themes of friendship, forgiveness and overcoming fear of rejection shine through. Although it is appropriate for all ages, preschoolers and elementary school aged children will likely enjoy it most.
Rebecca R. Leffler

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