Produced by: Foothill Music Theatre
Directed by: Milissa Carey
Choreographed by: Riette Burdick
Music direction by: Rick Reynolds
Featuring: Andrew Ross, Jocelyn Pickett, Nick Kenrick, Joey McDaniel, Jennifer Martinelli, Vanessa Alvarez, Kyle Arrouzet, Christina Bolognini, Daniel Cardenas, Seton Chiang, Melissa Costa, Jorge Diaz, David Evans, Ronald Feichtmeir, Gwyneth, Forrester, Athena Hart, Katelyn Hughes, Kayvon Kordestani, Cameryn Laird, Mylissa Malley, Katie Mazon, Sasha Motalygo, Sam Nachison, Jona Nicklin, Elena Panos, Tyler Pardini, Gwyneth Price, John Ramirez, Alea Selburn, Melina Smoker, Victor Velasquez, Kaitlin Zablotsky
When: July 20 through August 6, 2017
Where: Smithwick Theatre, Highway 280 and El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills
Tickets: $12-$32; visit www.foothill.edu/theatre or call 650-949-7360
if you're 'Shrek' at heart
and, most importantly, it has fart jokes
Foothill Music Theatre in Los Altos Hills is staging a fabulous production of "Shrek The Musical" that is weakened only by the show's score.
Joey McDaniel is brilliant as the vertically challenged Lord Farquaad, thumping around the stage on his knees and emoting selfish evil with wild abandon, earning the best ovation at the end of the show when he finally rises up to take a bow. He's very, very funny, and an excellent actor and singer.
Jocelyn Pickett is dynamic, funny and commands the stage as Princess Fiona, who is destined to find her inner beauty as an ogress. Pickett has some major chops with comedy, in addition to a fine voice as a singer.
Andrew Ross is in fine voice as Shrek, the ogre, doing the entire show in greenface and with big, tubular ears. He's very good with comic timing. He does a Scottish accent — required, since that's how Mike Myers created the role for the 2001 movie, but it kind of comes and goes in dialogue, and disappears completely in singing. But, who cares? He is a fine Shrek with a good voice and a gift for comedy.
And Nick Kenrick is hilarious as Donkey, doing the entire play in a pretty good Eddie Murphy voice, another bow to the movie. And, he gets the show's two biggest laughs, although — truth be told — it's not him, but a stuffed dummy that drops from the rafters with a huge THUD, getting a huge laugh from the children in the audience. His other biggest laugh — which also grabbed the adults in the audience — was in the second act, and involved a fart.
By the way, while the Dragon is carried around by four puppeteers — Daniel Cardenas, David Evans, Jona Nicklin and Melina Smoker — she is voiced by Jennifer Martinelli, who has a fabulous voice. We don't see her onstage till the curtain calls, when she comes out wearing a totally cool dragon headress. And got a big, well-deserved round of applause.
If you don't like fart jokes, what is wrong with you? There's a great bunch of them that accompany the song "I Think I Got You Beat" in the second act, and they were hilarious. I was shocked that my 7-year-old grandson didn't think the fart jokes were the best thing in the show. But my 9-year-old granddaughter sort of liked them.
The problem with this show, with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, is that there are too many slow ballads. Hey! I am old! Don't give me a chance to fall asleep, or start staring at other people in the audience, as did a lot of the children in the auditorium. Instead, keep the music lively and moving!
Still … it's pretty fun, and conductor Rick Reynolds and a fine, 13-piece orchestra did great with the music. It begins with a charming introduction of both Shrek and Princess Fiona, who both — what a coincidence! — are ejected by their families when they turn 7 years old. What's up with that?
Let us sing the praises of choreographer Riette Burdicke, who kept the 32-person cast moving with humor and beauty; scenic designer Lynn Grant, whose sets were among the best I have ever seen at Foothill; costume designer Julie Engelbrecht, who clothed all the guards, Lord Farquaad and the many, many fairy tale creatures — from my grandkids' favorite, Pinocchio, to the Three Little Pigs to Humpty Dumpty — with cleverness ( I especially liked the Wicked Witch's gown); lighting designer Michael Ramsaur, who kept everyone well defined, even when trooping off stage around the orchestra pit; sound designer Andrew Heller, who balanced all the music and singing for clarity; and prop designer Shirley Benson, who is likely responsible for the broken magic wand, the exploding bird and other gags.
And please, may we have a round of applause for production supervisor Bruce McLeod, who was undoubtedly a big part of making all of the above work; and for director Milissa Carey, who had the entire show and all its cast members humming like a top. Well done. Really, this is a big-deal show.
I wasn't surprised that McDaniel was so good. I've seen him in several shows, and he is a powerhouse on stage. His Lord Farquaad — in a fabulous costume designed by Engelbrecht — was hilarious from his first moment on stage, and particularly tickled the youngsters in the audience. McDaniel milked every possible laugh from the role, and he and Carey (and maybe others) also added some modern jokes that got big laughs, having to do with the current president of the United States.
I hadn't realized that Pickett had such power and such a gift for comedy. She's tall and gorgeous and those long legs are at least once much in display, in a big dance number where her long skirt is removed, and she dances just in a miniskirt and some green shorts under that. But it's what she does with her voice and with comedy that helps her command the stage, as well as her stunning physical presence. It will be fun to watch her in other musical comedies going forward.
She is Fiona, a princess trapped for 23 years in a tower (she likes long walks on the beach and Chipotle, at least in her dreams), and part of the fun of watching her is when she lets some of her monster personality out. Pickett delivers that stuff with panache.
Other than the excess ballads, this is a really fun show. Fairy tale creatures invade Shrek's swamp; he goes to Lord Farquaad to get them removed, and is suckered into saving a princess from a dragon to get his swamp back. Donkey and he go on the quest, Fiona is saved, but turns out to have her own fairy-tale kind of complications. And, as it happens, the sourpuss Shrek kind of likes Fiona, even though he knows, as an ogre, that he can't have a romance with a beautiful princess. "You are pretty, but I like you anyway."
Everybody wants to highlight that this show teaches us all to find the inner beauty, which is swell, but I really liked the fart jokes.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org