Dan Kane reviews “Shrek the Musical” at the Players Guild Theatre and he couldn’t stop laughing — it was that good.
CANTON Normally, I avoid pain at all costs but this time it was welcome.
On a frigid wintry night I took my seat to see the Players Guild’s production of “Shrek the Musical” and I laughed until my sides ached.
Amid bleak weather and troubling headlines, this kind of inspired silliness felt like a godsend. Performances continue for three more weekends in the guild’s intimate downstairs theater.
Based on the animated movie hit, “Shrek” works well as a stage musical with energetic and comically skilled human actors. The show’s hero is a grouchy, flatulent and much-feared green ogre named Shrek who finds himself teamed with a motor-mouthed donkey on a quest to rescue a lovely princess locked in a tower that’s guarded by a fire-breathing dragon.
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Micah Harvey, reprising a character he first played at the guild in 2014, is perfect as Shrek whose voyage to recover a princess becomes a voyage of self-discovery. It’s a whopper of a challenging role, with a Scottish accent, unwieldy costume and oodles of songs, but Harvey’s performance is comedic and inspired.
Justin Woody, in a major turnaround from his title role in the guild’s “Jesus Christ Superstar,” is perfection as Donkey. His facial expressions, body language, comic timing and overall quirkiness are a continual delight, and he’s a bravura entertainer delivering his songs. It was hard to look away from him.
As Lord Farquaad, the notably short-of-stature, petulant and clueless ruler of Duloc, Mike Burke is well-cast and deeply funny. Racing around the stage on tiny legs (the actor is actually on his knees), in a goofy pageboy wig, with the most unusual array of emotions playing across his face, he is a hoot.
As Fiona, the princess (with a secret) who has grown up alone in a tower dreaming of Prince Charming, Sarah Marie Young has all the lovely princess qualities but is wonderfully goofy as well, in the over-the-top anthem of optimism “Morning Person” and her flirty duet of belching and flatulence with Shrek.
Wait, there’s more. An entire squad of fairy-tale characters has been banished from Duloc by Farquaad to Shrek’s swamp and they’re plenty cranky about it. There’s plenty of hilarity with this humorously costumed, stage-crowding gang of misfits, which includes the Three Little Pigs, Three Bears, Humpty Dumpty, the Wicked Witch and a cross-dressing Big Bad Wolf.
I especially enjoyed the comic energy of Morgan Brown, in a Marge Simpson wig, manipulating the hapless Gingerbread Man and tossing random props in the air, and Robert Husted as the shrill, falsetto-voiced Pinocchio and other roles including a go-go boy.
Ashley Kendall brings plenty of go-girl attitude to her performance as the Dragon, and her big song, “Forever,” sounds like a showstopper from “Dreamgirls.” Sophia Tsenekos, age 10, is thoroughly impressive in her solo vocal turn as the Young Fiona.
“Shrek” performances continue through Feb. 9, with performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, $34 for adults, $31 for seniors and $27 for 17 and younger, may be ordered at PlayersGuildTheatre.com and 330-453-7617.