“SHREK THE MUSICAL,” through Oct. 20, Tuacahn Amphitheatre, 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins (435-652-3300 or tuacahn.org); running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (one intermission)
Dreamworks’ 2001 movie “Shrek” has never been accused of being reverent or traditional, and audiences at Tuacahn’s “Shrek the Musical” can be assured that the stage rendition is no less cheeky than its source material.
The musical follows Shrek, an ogre who lives a solitary life in his swamp. When the malicious Lord Farquaad banishes all fairy-tale creatures from the kingdom of Duloc, characters like Pinocchio and the Big Bad Wolf must relocate to Shrek’s swamp. At the creatures’ insistence, Shrek heads to Duloc to speak with Lord Farquaad and request the creatures be allowed to leave his land.
However, Lord Farquaad has problems of his own. He can’t officially be Duloc’s king until he marries a princess. Lucky for him, Princess Fiona has been locked in a tower for 23 years and is all set for her Prince Charming to rescue her. She is guarded by a dragon, though, and her tower has no doors, so Lord Farquaad opts to find a warrior to rescue her and do all the heavy lifting. When Shrek shows up seeking a deed to his property, Lord Farquaad appoints the ogre as his champion, making a deal to give Shrek his swamp in exchange for the princess.
The play, like the movie, is fully aware of fairy-tale clichés, and it cleverly subverts nearly all of them. Fiona, far from being a passive princess, is determined and pragmatic and, unlike many traditional princesses, fully embraces her own flatulence. Lord Farquaad is definitely not Prince Charming, and none of the fairy-tale creatures are happy with their “happily ever afters” — or lack of them. And — spoiler alert — the princess doesn't fall for the prince, but for the ogre.
The result is a show that’s almost more fun for adults than for kids. Kids will appreciate the fairy-tale setting and the likable characters, but some of the musical’s more sly jokes will fly over their heads. There are a few comments about how Lord Farquaad might be compensating for something, and several timely references to current politics (most notable are the “Not my king” and “Make Duloc great again” signs carried by characters during Lord Farquaad’s final scene). But the musical is layered (like an onion, or perhaps a parfait) — there’s a definite moral about the importance of friendship and embracing differences.
Tuacahn’s production is well-done. The set is impressive, and the ensemble actors are fantastic singers and dancers. Tuacahn is made up of a very professional cast and crew, and any flaws are rare and usually insignificant. There are no weak links in the “Shrek” cast.
There are a few notable characters, though. Ogden native Jeffrey Scott Stevens, as the flamboyant Lord Farquaad, was consistently funny, offering incredible facial expressions and making a memorable impression in every one of his scenes. And New Jersey actor André Jordan was flawless as the chatty and comical Donkey. Fans of the movie will no doubt be pleased with Tuacahn’s casting.
Overall, “Shrek the Musical” is definitely a fun take on classic fairy tales, and it’s well worth the trip for families who want to entertain kids of all ages without sacrificing entertainment for the adults.
Content advisory: "Shrek the Musical" includes some mild language, crude humor and mild sexual innuendo.