DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – The story is fun – an ogre, a princess, a talking donkey, fairytale characters and a pipsqueak wannabe king.
Add a singing dragon hauling around a large tail and such colorfully costumed characters as the Three Blind Mice, Peter Pan, Wicked Witch, The Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio and a talking/singing Gingerbread Man.
Let them all loose with the kinds of visual and musical flair for which the Alicia Birder-led Birder Players is known and you have “Shrek The Musical.” On opening night Friday in Broadway Theatre, the show generated bolts of audience excitement and cheers.
“Shrek The Musical” is family oriented, although some kids may go home retelling the parts about passing gas and belching – and maybe a few will catch the adult humor.
The story is built around imagination: A mean lord has kicked the fairytale creatures out of his castle and sent them to the swamp of the ogre Shrek, who doesn’t want them around. With a donkey as a sidekick, Shrek treks to heroism and unlikely love (he thinks) from a princess who’s been stuffed away in a castle tower since she was 7 years old – the same age Shrek was banished to the swamp by his parents.
Messages abound. The main one is don’t judge a book by its cover.
It’s a lively tale, filled with jokes and giggles.
Jesse Robak scores as Shrek, the green, mean ogre who is a sensitive soul at heart. Shrek is a stinky and not quite totally terrifying ruler of a swamp. Jesse Robak speaks and sings in a strong voice with a dusting of an Irish accent. Instead of make-up, he wears a fitted rubbery headpiece that accents Shrek’s ogre-ism.
Ana Bakken dives into the role of long-suffering Princess Fiona. A complete performer, Ana Bakken is especially expressive as she sings with flair and tosses in tap dancing with an ensemble of rats to fire up Act II.
Also a hit is Jacob Bressers as Donkey. He wears top-notch make-up that befits his top-flight performance as an energized, cheery and positive-minded soul who is a joy to have around. Jacob Bressers is a dynamo.
Kevin Plekan is comically vivid as sawed-off, royally garbed Lord Farquaad, always the butt of jokes for his outrageous ego and size, or lack thereof. The role requires singing and dancing on the knees with special costuming.
Certain shows are so popular that people who like to perform put roles on their bucket list. Jacob Bressers’ performance has that feel to it. Kevin Plekan’s bucket list has at least two check marks because he also was a hit in a 2020 production in the Fox Valley.
The company looks like it is having a blast.
Ensemble numbers – “Big, Bright, Beautiful World” at the start and “I’m a Believer” at the encore being filled with splash and zest.
Costuming for the corps is eye-catching, such as for the head-to-toe looks for dancing Rats and Guards.
Among fairytale creatures, three stand out. Bucky Marklein portrays Pinocchio complete with an on-purpose squeaky voice, niffty costume, a nose that grows and a bunch of wise cracks. Madeline Schneider voices Gingy, a ginger bread being, with a bundle of comments/jokes, too. Caitlin Lloyd does double and triple duty as Dragon, maneuvering a flexible dragon-y body while manipulating a fang-y mouth while singing with a whole lot of flair.
Cast members often play multiple roles. The backstage quick-change artistry probably would be a show in itself.
There is other trickiness. Included are a remote-control mechanical rat, a folding fire pit and folding parts of scenery such as for a swamp becoming a castle and a bridge over which Shrek and Donkey are to cross to rescue Princess Fiona while is guarded by the nasty Dragon that turns out to have a heart of gold, too.
Like the whole show.
Running time: 2½ hours
Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. July 15-16; 2 p.m. July 17; 7:30 p.m. July 19-23; 2 p.m. July 24
Creative: Based on Dreamworks animated motion picture and book by William Steig; book and lyrics – David Lindsay-Abaire; music – Jeanine Tesori; producer, director – Alicia Birder; music director – Brandon Rockstroh; choreographer – Anna Allen; lighting design – Andrew Schmitz; sound design – Sam Sednquist, Chloe Ledvina; stage manager – Frank Tower; assistant stage manager, properties – Jensen MacKenzie; set design – Warren Elliott; scenic design – Susan Elliott, August Jennings; hair and make-up design, crew – Lois Gegare, Jamie Gegare; wardrobe coordinator – Sam McKenzie
+ Shrek – Jesse Robak
+ Princess Fiona – Ana Bakken
+ Donkey – Jacob Bressers
+ Lord Farquaad, King Herold – Kevin Plekan
+ Dragon, Mama Ogre – Caitlin Lloyd
+ Gingy, Sugar Plum Fairy – Madeline Schneider
+ Pinocchio, Greeter – Bucky Marklein
+ Young Fiona, Grumpy – Sophia Schubert
+ Teen Fiona – Erin Janssen
+ Young Shrek, Baby Bear – Lauren Powell
+ Papa Ogre, Papa Bear – Keith Pratt
+ Queen Lillian, Ugly Duckling – Beth Remmers-Jensen
+ Captain of the Guards – Randi Groff
+ Thelonius, Bishop – Ashley Skoczynski
+ Elf, Dwarf – Ann Preiss Gray
+ Mad Hatter – Megan Carpenter
+ Humpty Dumpty – Elise Gerondale
+ Mama Bear – JaymeAnn Olson
+ Wicked Witch – Hannah Ellingboe
+ Fairy Godmother – Anna Allen
+ Peter Pan – Elizabeth Werner
+ Big Bad Wolf – Lindsey Lyerly
+ Bird – Mary Delaney
+ 3 Pigs – Ritter Leeph, London McKenzie, Mary Delaney
+ Rats – Ritter Leeph, Caitlin Lloyd, London McKenzie, JaymeAnn Olson, Beth Remmers-Jensen, Ann Preiss Gray, Anna Allen, Mary Delaney
+ Happy People – Jolee Jackson, Ritter Leeph, Madeline Schneider, Ashley Skoczynski, Mary Delaney, Livi Drewieske, Lilly Ellingson
+ Knights – Elise Gerondale, Lindsey Lyerly, Bucky Marklein, Keith Pratt
+ Duloc Dancers – Beth Remmers-Jensen, Ritter Leeph, London McKenzie, JaymeAnn Olson, Anna Allen, Mary Delaney, Hannah Ellingboe, Elise Gerondale, Ann Priess Gray
+ Prop Characers – Mary Delaney, Elizabeth Werner, Jolee Jackson, Megan Carpenter, Livi Drewieske, Lilly Ellingson
+ Guards – Jolee Jackson, Ritter Leeph, London McKenzie, JaymeAnn Olson, Elizabeth Werner, Megan Carpenter, Livi Drewieske, Lilly Ellingson
+ Ghosts – Ann Priess Gray, Anna Allen, Ritter Leeph, JaymeAnn Olson
Musical numbers (recorded soundtrack)
“Big Bright Beautiful World” – Shrek, Company“Story of My Life” – Pinocchio, Fairytale Creatures
“Don’t Let Me Go” – Donkey
“Regiment” – Farguaad’s Guards
“What’s Up Duloc?” – Farquaad, Dulocians
“I Know It’s Today” – Young Fiona, Teen Fiona, Princess Fiona
“Travel Song” – Donkey, Shrek
“Forever” – Dragon, The Knights, Donkey
“This is How a Dream Comes True” – Princess Fiona, Shrek
“Who I’d Be” – Shrek, Princess Fiona, Donkey
“Morning Person” – Princess Fiona, Bird, Pied Piper, Rats
“I Think I Got You Beat” – Shrek, Princess Fiona
“Ballad of Farquaad” – Lord Farquaad, Thelonious, Guards
“When Words Fail” – Shrek
“Morning Person” (Reprise) – Princess Fiona
“Build a Wall” – Shrek
“Freak Flag” – Gingy, Pinocchio, Fairytale Creatures
“Big Bright Beautiful World” (Reprise) – Shrek
“Finale (This is Our Story)” – Shrek, Princess Fiona, Donkey, Company
“I’m a Believer” – Company
NEXT: “Xanadu” musical, Sept. 7-17.
THE VENUE: Broadway Theatre is located at 123 St. Broadway on the east side of the Fox River in De Pere. Essentially a 3,000-square-foot “black box” theater, the rectangular performance space is adjusted to the needs of a specific production. For “Shrek The Musical,” seating is for 125 on risers facing the long leg of performance space head on. The theater space includes a high, arcing ceiling consisting primarily of its original patterned tin, painted white, and a laminate dark brown floor in the audience area. Performances spill along the various levels onto the main level of the seating area. Action often is up close and personal. The theater is the home for performances and rehearsals of the youth Birder Studio of Performing Arts and adult Birder Players, and it is another option for other endeavors of entertainment.