The Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza is turning green — not with envy, but with entertainment, thanks to 5-Star Theatricals’ presentation of Shrek The Musical. It’s a wonderful piece of Broadway, full of song and dance, romance and adventure, and humor and attitude, too.
It’s based on Dreamworks’ 2001 animated feature, a fairytale parody about an ogre and a princess who fall in love. Shrek was smart, sassy and sly, with a jaundiced eye, a smattering of fart jokes and a soundtrack that owed more to college radio than Radio City Music Hall. Shrek The Musical’s book by David Lindsay-Abaire has kept both the snark and the heart of the film, and the music by Jeanine Tesori (with lyrics by Lindsay-Abaire), while definitely in the Broadway mold, has maintained its edge as well. And, yes, there are fart jokes — including one set uproariously to music.
5-Star’s production is a feast for the eyes and ears. The richly detailed, cleverly designed sets — courtesy of Alex Choate (props), Jose Santiago (lighting) and Talia Krispel (stage manager) — shift easily between a swamp, a castle turret and other scenes. Live musical accompaniment by the 5-Star Theatricals Orchestra, led by musical director/conductor Dan Redfeld, further immerses the audience in a land of make believe. The design team — Kathryn Poppen (costumes), Jim Belcher (hair and wigs) and Denice Paxton (makeup) — brings a host of storybook characters to life, with a brilliant (and very funny) technique for giving Lord Farquaad his short stature. And the dragon is wonderful: a fabulous puppet operated by three different people and voiced in one show-stopping number (“Forever”) by the extraordinary Deanna Anthony.
The talent is top-notch across the board. All the principals — Trent Mills as Shrek, Alison Woods as Princess Fiona, Lawrence Cummings as Donkey and Marc Ginsburg as Lord Farquaad — inhabit their roles with relish. Ginsburg expertly recreates John Lithgow’s droll delivery, while Cummings fills Eddie Murphy’s enormous (horse-)shoes with a soulful voice and pitch-perfect comedic timing.
The rest of the cast is equally impressive, with phenomenal vocal and dance skills, and choreographer Karl Warden makes the most of every exhilarating step.
It takes a skilled hand to give so much talent the room it needs to breathe without losing the nuance, and director Kirsten Chandler makes it look easy. There’s never a dull moment, and yet the production never feels rushed, and the ample humor feels organic and unforced.
From start to finish, Shrek The Musical is polished, professional and a genuine pleasure. Catch it while you can.
Shrek The Musical through Oct. 28 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. For tickets and more information, call 805-449-2787 or visit www.5startheatricals.com.