Welp, tonight is OPENING NIGHT of Shrek the Musical at The Kelsey Theatre in West Windsor, New Jersey! If you need more information about this show, well you have come to the right place! Here is your ultimate guide to this hot-selling musical making its debut tonight at Kelsey!
When you think of Shrek the Musical, you would be forgiven for assuming that everyone already knew everything about this show. I mean, c’mon, the movie is one of the highest grossing film franchises in the history of cinema, it sparked three sequels (two of which give Transformers 2 and 3 a run for their money in the “worst movie EVER” race), and it even sparked a 4D ride at Universal Studios Florida (which is actually quite enjoyable).
So with such widespread recognizability, you would assume there would be no surprises in a stage version of the story, right?
WHAT IS SHREK THE MUSICAL ABOUT?
This stage version of Shrek gives you (the audience) everything that you liked about the movie plus more about the characters, while keeping the irreverent humor that spices up the plot. And yes, there are fart jokes. Lots of them. But hey, every musical could use a fart joke, right? (Next to Normal is DEFINITELY a show that could use a fart joke or two.)
Okay, I am making the mistake of assuming that every person in the world (including Kim Jong Un) has seen the movie. Just in case you haven’t, here’s the story, in brief:
To reclaim his swamp from squatting, displaced fairytale creatures, the ogre Shrek (played by Jarad Benn) , with the help of his sidekick Donkey (played by Kyrus Keenan Westcott, aka ME), must rescue the dragon-guarded Princess Fiona (played by Kim Cupo) and deliver her to Lord Farquaad (played by Nicholas Pecht), who must marry the princess in order to become a king and turn his land of Duloc into a real kingdom.
Got that? Okay, don’t worry. It’s definitely not the plot that made Shrek a huge hit on the big screen, it was the characters and the very self-aware comedy. (You know, like the United States Congress.)
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE ABOUT SHREK THE MUSICAL
Without a doubt, you’ll fall in love with Jarad Benn as Shrek. Night after night, he finds a way to make the ogre’s irascibility, basic goodness, and ultimate desire for connection come through the pounds and pounds of costume and green makeup he has to wear. (After you see the show, if you go to hug Shrek, be aware that you may go home with green sweat attached to your body … so, perhaps a handshake will suffice.)
To be sure, you’ll definitely love Kim Cupo as Princess Fiona. Audiences have been in love with Kim for many years at Kelsey Theatre (Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical the Musical and Hope in Urinetown: The Musical – she won a Kelsey Award for her Seussical performance, and she was nominated for her Urinetown performance.) Kim has underrated comedic skills and delicately balances between being a damsel-in-distress, and being a Veronica Corningstone-type of rebel. (If you don’t understand that reference: 1, I’m disappointed. 2, just Google it … sheesh.)
Nicholas Pecht imbues (hello, vocab test) Lord Farquaad with a delightful neediness underscored by inescapable selfishness. You not only like to see Farquaad get what’s coming to him, you enjoy the entire journey there. Nick’s first big dance number as Farquaad, with Nick singing, dancing, and high-kicking (100% on his knees, btw … in context that’ll make more sense), is one of the funniest things you’ll see on a stage.
(Okay, so for those who don’t know me, my name is Kyrus Keenan Westcott. I am a writer, blogger, black guy, and actor. I am playing Donkey in this production of Shrek the Musical. I am not going to sit here and review my own performance as Donkey … because that would be weird. I will say this though, no, I do not do an Eddie Murphy impression for two hours. I am trying to add my own flare and style to this character and I am having a blast working with this ridiculously dedicated cast, crew, and creative team! Okay… back to the cast.)
All of your favorite fairy tale creatures from the movie are here on stage as well, including: Pinocchio (played by Justin Derry), the Gingerbread Man (played by Dominique Marie Shaw), a cross-dressing wolf (played by Rob Gougher), Three Blind Mice (Jaimie McMillin, Susan Fowler, and Kristen Kane), and tons of other fairy tale creatures played by a talented ensemble full of familiar (and comforting) faces.
Just like the movie, Shrek the Musical has plenty of jokes for both children and adults. Some of the jokes may go completely over your child’s head, but that’s what’s great about the script, there are plenty of nods to the parents who schlocked
(I may, or may not have made that word up) their children into the theater for a show. Look for drive-by fun-poking at many current pop culture topics and people … and of course, Disney. (For those that know me, you know personal my Disney connection is … so it should be even funnier to you. Teehee. Yes … I just said teehee. #dontjudge)
THE CREATIVE TEAM
Shrek the Musical, is a production of Maurer Productions OnStage, and is directed by Laurie Gougher (who was last seen onstage in the Kelsey Award-winning musical Sunday in the Park with George). The show is musically directed by Peter de Mets and choreographed by Stephanie Venanzi.
Vicki Czarnik is the makeup designer, M. Kitty Getlik is the lighting designer, Dottie Farina (who is an unspoken hero of Kelsey Theatre) is the props mistress (not a bad thing, despite the title), Jeff Cantor is the master set builder, Beverly Kuo Hamilton is the stage manager, John Maurer designed the set and is the master puppeteer (ps, there is a GIANT dragon puppet in the show … and it’s awesome), Kathy Slothower is the costume designer, Amy Bessellieu is the scenic artist, and Nick Mastalesz is the sound engineer.
Run Time: The show runs about 2 hours and 30 minutes (which includes a 15-minute intermission). CLICK HERE for show times and tickets. WARNING: DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE DAY OF THE SHOW TO PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS. SOME PERFORMANCES ARE ALREADY SOLD OUT, SO I SUGGEST PURCHASING YOUR TICKETS ASAP!
Also, CLICK HERE to visit the official website of Maurer Productions OnStage for even MORE in depth information.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Listen, Shrek the Musical is not Shrek the movie. There is more (the back stories that I mentioned above), but there is also less. You simply cannot do everything on stage that you can do in an animated film with a $100-million dollar budget. The producers and the director of Shrek the Musical, wisely didn’t try to mimic that.
Shrek the Musical features an entirely new score by Jeanine Tesori (composer of Violet, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Caroline, or Change). The music, with its blues and gospel influences, take a very different approach from the movie, which featured little original music, relying instead on new and old popular songs.
This is definitely a fun show for both children and adults. It’s funny, heartwarming, and full of fun, energetic moments that will definitely leave you humming as you leave the theater. (I challenge any audience member who read this guide to come up to me after the show and say, “And tomorrow, I’m making waffles!” and then give me a high five. It’ll totally make my day! And I’ll give you a HUGE hug!)
Kyrus is a native of Hamilton, New Jersey, studied Theatre at Mercer County Community College, and is a proud graduate of Westminster School of the Performing Arts at Rider University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art Theatre.
Ky studied vocally with the extremely talented and very resourceful Steven Schnurman, a graduate of The Julliard School of NY. For more information on Steven Schnurman, please visit his website at http://www.voicelessonsnj.com/ today!
His stage credits include: Tours: George Street Playhouse Educational Touring Company (Repertory Actor), Chuckleball (2010 Touring Company). NY Off-Broadway: A River’s Current (New York Theatre Workshop). Regional Credits: Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party (“Black” – Ritz Theatre NJ), Hairspray (“Seaweed” – Broadway Theatre of Pitman), Rent (“Benny” – TriArts Sharon Playhouse). Recent Credits: Shrek the Musical (Donkey), Legally Blonde (Emmett), Avenue Q (Nicky), Pippin (Leading Player), Ragtime (Coalhouse), Assassins (Balladeer), Macbeth (Macbeth), Once On This Island (Agwe), Rocky Horror (Rocky Horror), Seussical (Cat in the Hat), Spelling Bee (Mitch), Forum (Hero).