OGDEN — It seems like each summer there are few shows throughout Utah that happen to be the common show. This summer appears to be the summer of Shrek. Ogden Musical Theatre invited our reviewer to attend their final tech rehearsal, which can be a bit of a risk, with a few kinks still left to be worked out, but director Andrew Barrett Lewis did not have much to worry about, because he and his team have put together a big bright beautiful world at the historical Egyptian Theater in downtown Ogden.
One of the first things I noticed was the fantastic projections, lighting, and set. Lighting Designer Hayden Wadsworth, Set Manager Truxton Moulton, and Prop Designer Porter Lance have done a really great job greeting quite a magical world. The opening scenes are done behind the backdrop of storybook projections, with library side stage curtains that made the whole fantasy come to life from the beginning. Then, as the show continued and opened up on Shrek’s swamp, the level of imagery on the stage was impressive. I truly felt like I had been transferred to the swamps of Duloc.
Another stand out in this production was choreography. Choreographer Jo Blake has done an excellent job of letting the necessary moments of dance in this show push the show forward in beautiful ways. My favorite was, “Morning Person,” at the beginning of the first act. It is meant to be a great tap number, and in a lot of the productions I have seen, the tapping is limited, likely due to the lack of ability within the cast, but Blake has done a spectacular job of getting his ensemble and Samantha Allen as Fiona to show off their skills in this area.
Costume design, by Alicia Kondrick, was exquisite. Shrek is simply a costumer’s playground. From the fun partnership with makeup, designed by Shon Gordon, to the myriad of fairytale people that the costumer gets to work with, Kondrick had a great deal to take on, and the result was so fun. Favorites were the dragon, played by Hailey Weeks (voice) and Jonathan Guerra (Puppeteer), with a sparkly dress and the surprise that came out from the understage as well as the jackets on the three blind mice.
The main trio, Shrek, played by BJ Whimpey, Fiona played by the previously mentioned Allen, and Donkey played by Dre’lan Evans have excellent chemistry. One of my favorite numbers of the show is, “Who I’d Be,” the end of act one, where Whimpey gave an excellent performance showing the main point of the show: we often cannot be who we want to be because of the judgment of society and expectations that are placed. And then when Evans and Allen join in at the end of the song, adding their beautiful harmonies and emotions together, which were amplified by the lighting choices, it made for a beautiful closing moment to the act.
Shrek is truly a fun ensemble show, which the team at Ogden Musical Theatre showed during, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly.” Many of the different fairy tale characters get a moment in the spotlight, and Music Director Kenneth Plain did a fantastic job of working with each person to project when needed and then work together to blend and sound fantastic as a team.
Finally, Shrek is meant to be a comedy. The lines in the show are funny, the songs are fun, the moments and the interactions are great. Much of the fun is hard to catch, but when you pay attention, it is great. I loved some of the local flair that is always added in a production, like the sign for Weber State and the shout out to historic 25th street. I think it is important as an audience member to come and allow yourself to have fun at a show like Shrek. When the performers feel the excitement of the audience, they will in turn have more fun on the stage, which can make for a stronger performance. Attending a final dress, the audience is often good friends and family, so we were lucky to have a good audience with people who were excited to be there. I hope that the city of Ogden and those that are around the area will be able to also go and have some fun. I had been having a bit of a rough week, and the humor and joy that is found in Shrek was a good way to relax and overcome the challenges faced and get back out there for another day.