OGDEN — Over the last few years, many popular movies have been adapted to stage productions. This has proved to be a profitable choice for many theatrical companies, and Shrek the Musical was no exception. It is a popular story that all ages can enjoy and a good choice for a Halloween themed show. The lessons taught in the show about love, happiness, being proud of who you are, and not judging on appearance, are timeless and important. The Ziegfeld Theater in Ogden has indeed worked hard to bring this story to life in a way that is imaginative and fresh.
The first thing that is noticed as the audience comes into the theater is the scenery. Caleb Perry, credited with scenic, lighting design, and projection design, along with Logan Nelson as co-projection designer, did wonders with transforming the stage into a swamp, complete with a foggy, misty air. As the production progressed, I realized that rather than an impressive back drop as I had first supposed, the creative team had chosen to use white screens with some of the finest background projections that I have ever seen. While in the swamp, the details of the trees to even small animals on the screen were evident. When in the kingdom of Dulac, the set inside the castle was also realistic. Most impressive was the way the scenes were able to move as the characters were walking, creating an exciting visual, especially during times when the characters were traveling from the swamp to the kingdom.
Shrek the Musical must be a fun production for the costume team. The story uses many storybook characters, and in the song “Story of My Life” each of these characters and their costumes get paraded about. Costume designer Neisha Lockwood and assistant costume designer Becky Cole certainly rose to the challenge. The costumes were fun, colorful, and believable. Of note was the witch, Fairy Godmother, and Lord Farquahad, all of which were creative and visually impressive. Of course, in a show like Shrek, makeup is also important, and makeup designer Lindsay Gladwell brought the orge to life, as well as Donkey and all the other characters. In fact, the make-up and costume design for Donkey was probably the most well designed of the show. Prop design by Kelly Wideman also worked hard to create the many props are needed in a production like this, from the small bird to the accessories each of the fairy tale characters carry. It is not clear if the design of the dragon should be credited to the costume, scenic, or props. However all parties involved created an excellent design of that large character.
On opening night, unfortunately, the technical glitches overshadowed what was a decent production. When I arrived the theater doors were closed until 5 minutes before the performance because the cast was still running through some technical elements. The audience members continued to crowd into the small lobby, and some of the younger children that had come to the production became restless while waiting to be seated. Once the show began it was apparent that the technical issues were with the microphone system. The speaker system was crackling most of the evening, especially when all the ensemble members singing together, making it very difficult to hear and understand lyrics and dialogue. Princess Fiona (played by Heidi Hunt) seemed to have the worst issues with the microphone, and after a few scenes her microphone was turned off. Hunt seemed to perform well, but the malfunctioning microphone made it so much harder to showcase her talents in the show. For example, one of the best numbers in the production, “I Think I Got You Beat,” was a visually entertaining number, and the chemistry between Fiona and Shrek (played by Layne Wilden), was evident. However, Shrek’s microphone amplified him far more than Fiona’s unamplified voice, making the song quite unbalanced. I found myself wishing they would have turned off all the microphones, rather than having such a strong imbalance.
Donkey, played by Daniel Akin, had several strong and amusing moments. His song, “Don’t Let Me Go,” was a solid introduction to his character, and that initial impression continued throughout the production. I enjoyed each of his interactions with Shrek, and felt they had a great balance between them, especially during the travel song, as Akin got more excited and Wilden got more annoyed, my daughter and I were smiling. She even leaned over to me and said, “You feel like Shrek when we are on road trips, don’t you?” Donkey also had a strong moment with the song “Forever,” in which he has an unfortunate romantic encounter with a Dragon, voiced extremely well by the strong powerhouse voice of Becky Cole.
Finally, Lord Farquahad, played by Quinn Kapetanov, stole the show. His costume, his choreography (by Bailee DeYoung) , to Kapetanov’s amusing facial expressions, Lord Farquahad provided much needed comic relief. In the second act, during the “Ballad of Lord Farquahad,” I was impressed with Kapetanov’s ability to express his emotions through his face. It is a character that is meant to be overdone, but that can often lead to an excessively campy tone. Kapetanov’s character was the perfect balance of dramatic flare along with keeping the character believable.
Overall, Shrek The Musical was a good production for all ages and as a medium to introduce young audiences to the theater. Hopefully, the technical issues can be resolved in order to allow for a stronger evening of entertainment.