I have always been suspicious of movies turned into musicals. However, as members of the cast welcomed me into the Lake Norman High School auditorium, I was taken right into the land of Duloc for “Shrek: The Musical.”
The crew had decked out the curtain to look like a forest. This innovation was continued throughout the show, with a full tower for Princess Fiona, a stage-sized castle and a dragon’s lair among the set pieces. The costumes dazzled; standouts for me were the glow-in-the-dark skeleton suits in the dragon’s lair. Lord Farquaad, a character notorious for his small stature, amused audiences with his costumer-created height (or lack thereof). The large cast’s spectacular costumes were a highlight and did a fantastic job of enhancing character nuances.
The story begins with a young ogre, Shrek, and a young princess, Fiona, being sent away by their respective parents. Flash forward a bit, and Shrek (Jesse Brown) is now a full-grown ogre living happily (or as happily as an ogre can) in his swamp. Things go sour when Farquaad expels all fairytale creatures from the kingdom. They come to Shrek’s swamp and ask him to convince Farquaad to allow them to stay in Duloc.
Shrek reluctantly agrees and finds a travel partner in Donkey (Will Rice). Farquaad concedes, with one condition: Shrek must rescue Fiona (Gabrielle Wagner) from her tower, which is guarded by a dragon and a pool of molten lava. Shenanigans ensue, as the unwitting heroes travel through the forest to find the princess and save Shrek’s home but end up finding something more.
The non-visual highlights included references to other musicals, such as “Wicked” and “Once Upon a Mattress.” Sydney Anderson’s sassy “Forever” grabbed the audience’s attention with its combination of Anderson’s singing, puppet operation by Brette Webb and Morgan Patterson and dancing by skeleton knights. The lighting design helped establish moods and settings.
Farquaad (Logan Pavia) made a delightful slimeball who “huffed and puffed and signed an eviction notice,” and Shrek and Fiona’s exchange in “I Think I Got You Beat” was adorable in a quirky, unexpected way. While pacing occasionally lagged, and poor projection sometimes caused words to be lost, the coordination of a cast of 35 people was commendable. Group choreography was synchronized, and ensemble numbers (“Story of My Life,” “Freak Flag”) were well-executed.
While some speed, confidence and volume could have done the majority of the cast good, Lake Norman’s “Shrek” scored many points for its visual appearance. What can I say? “I’m a believer…”