Friday, March 31, 2023

Review: The university gets Shrek’d

MosaicCampus LifeReview: The university gets Shrek’d

Staff Reporter

“Roaaarrr!!” Even in its second night, the Pearson Hall theater was flooded with applause as a hulking green figure burst from his walled enclosure. He’s grumpy, he’s mean, he’s green. And if you were lucky you could spot him at Pearson Hall in October! That’s right, Harrington Theatre Arts Company (HTAC) put on a production of “Shrek The Musical”! (Sorry to all my dude-bros who thought I was referring to the hulk).  

This take on the beloved tale starts at the beginning of the story, where we get to see Shrek grow up and be sent off into the world on his own. The titular character is played by senior environmental science major and YChromes (an a capella group on campus) member Griffen Frantz, as he goes from shunned little ogre to the cranky, smelly but overall loveable hero. 

Shrek is forced to reclaim his swamp after a group of fairytale creatures are displaced in his home, by the selfish Lord Farquaad. On his journey, Shrek is accompanied by his kind hearted, yet extremely talkative four-legged sidekick, Donkey. Along the way, they peel back the layers of their newfound alliance and sprout a twisted sort of friendship. They get drafted by Farquaad to rescue princess Fiona, Fiona and Shrek argue and then Fiona and Shrek fall in love. Chaos ensues, there’s a dragon and someone gets eaten. Basically, the plot followed the movie, “Shrek,” but with more spontaneous musical numbers.

Co-starring alongside Frantz’s Shrek (in order of appearance) was Donkey, portrayed by senior music major and Deltones (another on campus a capella group) member Austin Abraham, Princess Fiona portrayed by Sydney Levine, a senior music education major and Lord Farquaad portrayed by senior Applied Music – Voice major, Daniel Brenner.

In regards to the performances of the four main leads and the other hilarious ensemble of fairytale friends, all of the actors did a fantastic job. Frantz and Levine were basically pulled straight from the screen with their rendition of their respective characters. I see Frantz as a really impressive voice actor, with his spot-on impression of Shrek. But, all of the voices were amazing, especially in the singing department. I had goosebumps the whole show, especially with Levine’s version of the songs “I know It’s Today” and “Morning Person.” The same can be said for both Frantz and Abraham in “Travel Song” and “Don’t Let Me Go.” My friend and I were dancing along the whole time.

Overall, for a smaller scale production, it was extremely high quality. The use of single-walled sets and the lighting really set the mood. The backstage crew’s dedication helped set the flow of the show. Besides one moment I remember, when a sign fell down during a scene transition, it was a completely perfect show. Even that got a few laughs from the crowd, seeing the silhouette skulking figure stride back and return the sign back to its proper position, all this before the sound cue ended. 

One of my personal favorite creative choices that “Shrek The Musical” made is using puppetry to portray the dazzling dragon and the lovable Gingy, the Gingerbread man. It was nice to see that HTAC used a puppet Gingy in their version too.

If I had any constructive criticism to give, it would be that it was a little hard to see the dragon and her actress, freshman Rebbeca Masi. The lighting for mood, setting and color blending was really good, but the spotlight was not following any of the performers. The spotlight just hung in one spot and if the audience was lucky, the performers would move into that area. Unfortunately, when you have the massive dragon puppet, Masi in her dragon costume and Donkey all moving in different directions, it becomes hard to keep up with everything going on. However, both Masi and the puppeteers behind the dragon did a marvelous job portraying a character that gains a lot of personality in the musical versions of Shrek, compared to her mute version in the original movie.

The show ran from Oct. 14 to Oct. 28. So would I see this again? Absolutely. It has been a while since I saw a live theater production, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, I was only able to see one show and it was a play outside. So to be back in the enclosed theater and fully engage with the atmosphere of the theater was refreshing. I was reminded why I loved them so much. Just being in the moment and seeing the reactions on my friend’s face as the actors ran down the aisles throughout the show brought me so much joy. Besides some minor technical issues, this show was still a fun experience!




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