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Review – ‘Shrek The Musical’ at Santa Rosa Junior College By Alexa Chipman

Dreaming of a happily ever after with a handsome knight, Princess Fiona discovers that reality does not conform to storybooks, when a good-hearted ogre and his saucy donkey sidekick arrive instead of her pre-planned fairytale romance. Based on the popular film “Shrek,” this cheeky musical has tap dancing rats, an impressive dragon puppet, and a tight-knit ensemble that will delight all ages.

Danny Bañales as Shrek is enthusiastic in his bumbling quest to reclaim the rancid swamp that is his home, with help from sound designer Abigail Greene for his menacing roars. He allows the vulnerable, lonely side of his character to show through the outward blustering. This softer facet explains the instant connection with Isiah Carter’s Donkey, who sees right through the façade. Carter’s swaggering charisma finds its match with Jackie Diaz (Dragon) and her potent vocals in “Forever.”

Being trapped in a tower for most of her life has not dampened the fierce spirit of Samantha Bohlke-Slater’s Princess Fiona, who is perfectly at home waltzing through flower fields, carousing with rodents and talking back at a seemingly savage ogre. Her potential groom, Lord Farquaad, is a conceited, flashy comic relief. Noah Sternhill, who spends the entire play shuffling on his knees to produce the villain’s proper height, gives an outrageously pompous performance that even his Magic Mirror (Jessica Joy Ramalia) finds difficult not to laugh at.

Creating lively background action, and avoiding heavy-handed slapstick comedy, director Laura Downing-Lee has found a solid pacing and shifts the landscape often enough to keep children engaged. The orchestra, led by Rudolf Budginas, had a sputtering opening, but quickly blended in with the vocals for a nimble accompaniment.

Scenic Designer Peter Crompton uses modular castle turrets, walls and broken pillars to build a world where the Three Little Pigs and Sugar Plum Fairy feel right at home. Projections of glimmering fireflies, lush meadows for journey sequences and a festive display of fireworks are used to just the right effect without overwhelming the actors.

Maryanne Scozzari’s elaborate costuming, such as wooden hinges for Pinocchio, keep young audience members entranced at the array of colors and patterns. Her green makeup design for Shrek allows Bañales to be expressive in the role, rather than stiff behind a mask.

With a playful book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, “Shrek The Musical” is a sentimental romance where true love conquers all, with carefree dances and a celebration of diversity. Leave your cares behind while ambling the countryside of Duloc in the company of a lovable ogre and the talented cast from Santa Rosa Junior College.

Shrek The Musical

Presented by Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts through December 2, 2018 Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 1:30/7:30, Sun at 1:30pm

Maria Carrillo High School Theatre 6975 Montecito Blvd, Santa Rosa, 95409 The box office is open one hour before curtain, tickets are not available over the phone.

Photos by Jeff Thomas.

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