Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Spirit fires ‘Shrek’ in Manitowoc

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The Masquers, Inc. version of “Shrek the Musical” boils down to this email to me by Michele Schoepp, photographer for the company. On request after we met by chance in the lobby on opening night Friday, Schoepp attached photos of the production. Then came her note – a revelation of the heart and soul that have gone into the production:

“I love Manitowoc and all the creativity and talent! The CCC (Capitol Civic Centre) is a magical place where a community of all ages can still tell stories – make believe – and grown-ups can create and make fairy tales come true! Truly, for me, there’s magic on stage, but the hours and weeks of design, planning and building is what amazes me. (Director) Lisa Heili clearly shared her vision, and her ambitious team leads made it real!”

The show is giant, and participants at all levels throw themselves into it. Friday’s performance got a standing ovation, and laughs and cheers for scenes along the way. The thing is entirely likable.

***

Creative: Based on Dreamworks animated motion picture and book by William Steig; book and lyrics – David Lindsay-Abaire; music – Jeanine Tesori; producer – Shelly Kanzelberger; production mentor – Luan J. Leonardelli; director – Lisa Heili; assistant director – Bradley Tavares; choral director and orchestra conductor – David Bowman; choreographer – Shannon Wadzinski; assistant choreographer – Katie Jo Shimulunas; stage manager – Justine Boomperm; assistant stage manager – Derek Frenz; properties – Tiffany Decker and Roz Vossen; costumes – Claran LaViolette and Luan J. Leonardelli; hair design – Melissa Wendorf; make-up design – Margaret Iannitello; prosthetics – Ray Pritchard; master builder – Jim Schweitzer; set and dragon designer – Warren Schmidt; set decorator – Lisa Heili; military consultant – John Iannitello; lighting design – Lori Hebel

Cast: Shrek – Zachary Eric Glaeser; Fiona – Erin LaFond; Donkey – Kevin James Sievert; Lord Farquaad – Phillip Jindra; Dragon – Tessa Komorowski; Gingy – Jill Finnel; Pinocchio – Dallas Laurin; Young Fiona – Anna Gallagher; Teen Fiona – Cassie Wanek; Papa Ogre – Brandon Carroll; Mama Ogre – Angelina Laurin; Big Bad Wolf – Brandon Carroll; Elf – Isabella Tobin; Fairy Godmother – Candy LeFleur; Humpty Dumpty – Noahli Skarvan; Mad Hatter – Anthony Schultz; Peter Pan – Jonathan Mendendorp; Sugar Plum Fairy – Zoe Valitchka; Three Bears – Patrick Schamburek, Lexi Schultz, Erin Sievert; Three Little Pigs – Emilee E Landon, Melyssa Behnke, Sam Gretz; Ugly Duckling – Addison Fowler; Wicked Witch – Angelina Laurin; White Rabbit – Peter Heili; Queen Lillian – Melissa Shamburek; King Harold – Warren Schmidt; Three Blind Mice – Emilee E. Landon, Melyssa Behnke, Sam Gretz; Young Shrek – Allie Slowiak; Thelonious – Brandon Carroll; Captain of the Guard – Patrick Schamburek; Walter the Greeter – Jessica Iannitello; Bishop – Jon Mendendorp; Grumpy – Warren Schmidt; Puss N Boots – Allie Slowiak; Dwarfs – Kadin Kanzelberger, Shelly Kanzelberger; Guards – Peter Heili, Jon Mendendorp, Addison Fowler, Alexis Schultz, Anthony Schultz, Isabella Tobin, Jessica Iannitello, Kari Pritzl, Melissa Shamburek, Michelle Sheahan; Duloc Dancers – Tessa Komorowski, Dallas Laurin, Emilee E. Landon, Melyssa Behnke, Sam Gretz, Noahli Skarvan, Zoe Valitchka; Pied Piper and Rat Dancers – Dallas Laurin, Tessa Komorowski, Emilee E. Landon, Melyssa Behnke, Sam Gretz, Noahli Skarvan, Cassie Wanek; Knights – Peter Heili, Jon Medendorp, Patrick Schamburek, Anthony Schultz; Happy People – Kadin Kanzelberger, Amelia Fowler, Cassie Wanek, Janet Seidl, Jessica Iannitello, Kari Pritzl, Maddeson Miller, Michelle Sheahan, Shelly Kanzelberger; Travel Song Characters – Allie Slowiak, Amelia Fowler, Anna Gallagher, Janet Seidl, Maddeson Miller, Erin Sievert; Choir – Allie Slowiak, Amelia Fowler, Anna Gallagher, Cassie Wanek, Janet Seidl, Jessica Iannitello, Maddeson Miller, Michelle Sheahan; Dragon Wranglers – Warren Schmidt, Cole Becka, Rebecca Iannitello, Vee Bennetts

Running time: Two hours, 43 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. May 13, 2 and 7:30 p.m. May 14

Info: cccshows.org

***

The large cast is led by strong performances among the leads. Leaping into their roles in characterization and voice are Zachary Eric Glaeser as Shrek, Erin LaFond as Fiona, Kevin James Sievert as Donkey and Phillip Jindra as Lord Farquaad, and also nifty are Tessa Komorwoski as Dragon (the voice of; the dragon puppet itself is stupendous); Jill Finnel as Gingy, Dallas Laurin as Pinocchio, Anna Gallagher as Young Fiona and Cassie Wanek as Teen Fiona.

The family-style story is a massive lesson, from many perspectives, about not judging a book by its cover. It is set in motion when mean and sawed-off Lord Farquaad banishes fairy tale characters (The Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, Peter Pan and a bunch more) to the swamp that is the sole domain of the ogre Shrek. To get his haven back, Shrek agrees to rescue Fiona, who has been kept since age 7 in a castle surrounded by molten lava and guarded by a dragon. It’s a lively tale, filled with jokes and giggles, including bits about passing gas.

Among things that stand out:

– The sound. The production has a live orchestra, and it is a particularly zesty one that fires off brilliant notes. The cast uses wireless headsets in a sound system that is top grade. The voices – one after another – are strong, including the Irish lilt in Shrek, the vivacity in Fiona, the sparky rhythm in the Dragon, the friendliness in Donkey and the pomposity in Lord Farqquad.

– The flow. Not only do characters move and dance – including a tap routine – but scenes evolve nicely; there’s an overall knowledge of how to make things work visually.

– Specialty effects. The dragon is a Broadway-grade creation – a puppet with a moving mouth and eyes that light that takes four people to operate (one for the head, two for the torso and one, the singer, for the tail). Also, in a scene in which Fiona reveals her ogre-ness to Donkey, action is played out in silhouette; it’s a combination of scenic vision (creative imagination) and performer enactment.

– The look. Not only is Zachary Eric Glaeser a big guy with a bright voice as Shrek, he’s got ogre-ness in the prosthetics for his entire head. Kevin James Sievert has the make-up and costuming to become Donkey. As Lord Farquaad, Phillip Jindra performs on his knees in a clever costume that foreshortens his size – plus he lights up as a meanie who loves to dance. Imagination abounds in the fairy tale character costuming and uniforms, with a set of blonde wigs setting off some dancers.

There’s something about “Shrek the Musical” that lit a fire for director Lisa Heili that has   inspired the cast, designers and crew. This is community theater on steroids.

A grumble: A woman three seats from me in the third row used her cell phone to take photographs and send texts for the first half hour of Friday’s show. I could have told her she was selfish and rude and what she did was disruptive for the people around her – and deliberately ignored the requests to shut off electronic devices that come with every live performance – but I kept my mouth shut. Now, however, take this, lady: BOOOOO!

Songs

Act I

“Big Bright Beautiful World” – Shrek, Papa Ogre, Mama Ogre, Young Shrek, King Harold, Queen Lillian, Young Fiona, Happy People

“Story of My Life” – Fairytale Creatures

“The Goodbye Song” – Fairytale Creatures

“Don’t Let Me Go” – Donkey

“What’s Up Duloc?” – Lord Farquaad, Duloc Dancers, Captain, Thelonious, Guards

“I Know It’s Today” – Young Fiona, Teen Fiona, Fiona

“Travel Song” – Donkey, Shrek

“Forever” – Dragon, Donkey, Knights

“This is How a Dream Comes True” – Fiona

“Who I’d Be” – Shrek, Fiona, Donkey

Act II

“Morning Person” – Fiona, Pied Piper, Rat Dancers

“I Think I Got You Beat” – Fiona, Shrek

“The Ballad of Farquaad” – Lord Farquaad, Captain, Thelonious, Guards, Duloc Dancers, Shrek Fiona

“Make a Move” – Donkey, Three Blind Mice, Shrek Fiona

“When Words Fail” – Shrek

“Morning Person” (Reprise) – Fiona

“Build a Wall” – Shrek

“Freak Flag” – Fairytale Creatures

“Wedding Procession” – Choir

“Big Bright Beautiful World” (Reprise) – Shrek

“Finale (This is Our Story)” – Full Cast

“I’m a Believer” – Full Cast

THE VENUE: The 1,134-seat West Auditorium of Capitol Civic Centre features classically oriented styles befitting its 1921 origins as a combined vaudeville and movie palace. Two large, tiered, tear-drop clear crystal chandeliers grace shoulders on each side of the proscenium stage. All around is ornamentation – Corinthian capitals on faux columns, leaf-and-scroll braces beneath balcony and step-stage box seat areas, gold and red paint highlighting swirls and/or patterned geometric designs amid the cream-colored wall features. The ceiling is coffered. The fringe around the stage is ornate, with the stage curtain regal red with the Capitol Civic Center’s signature overlaid C’s standing out in the middle of the top hanging, which includes six tassels. Distinctive in the theater is the mezzanine, which is tucked far under the balcony and above the rear seats of the main floor. The lobby and meeting areas complement the rest of the theater in design. One area includes photo displays of stars and prominent personalities, including Charlton Heston and his wife, Two Rivers native, Lydia Clark Heston. The “Jewel on the Lakeshore” is home to 14 community arts, music and theater groups. Designed by local architect William J. Raueber and built by the local George Brothers, Arthur and John, the theater opened June 16, 1921, at Ascher Brothers’ Capitol Theatre under a lease agreement with the Chicago-based Ascher movie and vaudeville house operators. The current name dates to 1987, following restoration with the lead grant coming from the Ruth St. John and John Dunham West Foundation, Inc.

THE PEOPLE: John West was president of the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co. The foundation that bears the Ruth and John West name supports and fosters the arts, with the Rahr-West Art Museum another significant site in Manitowoc. 

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV between 6 and 7:30 a.m. Sundays.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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