This delightful mash-up of fairytale misfits from Pinocchio to the Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf, Peter Pan and more, who collide with a mean, little, wannabe king, a dragon, a donkey, a princess and an ogre is a hilarious road trip through a quirky swamp that will have you singing and dancing all the way home.
Young Stars Theatre is back at Fremont Centre Theatre for their second production of the year, Shrek Jr. It’s the first time doing this show and it’s clear it was a dynamite choice. Shrek was originally a book by William Steig which became the 2001 Disney film. Shrek Jr. is the youth version of the 2008 Broadway musical by Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire. We follow the tale of a solitary green ogre called Shrek who, shunned by the world, lives alone in a swamp until Lord Farquaad banishes all misfit fairytale persons from the kingdom, forcing them to land in Shrek’s swamp. Upon meeting the giant ogre, Farquaad demands that Shrek rescue Princess Fiona from a lava-surrounded tower guarded by a dragon and in return, the misfits may return to the kingdom.
Shrek meets a lovable donkey who becomes his sidekick for the task and we’re off on the adventure! The laughs come fast and furiously from the fresh and funny script delivered beautifully by the talented, young cast. Donkey, as in the film, is the most hilarious character and both Lindsay Osborne and Sophia Corral swing for the fences and hit an uproarious home run! The endearing Jack Wisinski and charming Levi Srebalus play the lovable ogre, Shrek, and both have terrific chemistry with their lovely Princess Fiona, Sophia Marshall-Pelayo and Ava Broneer. Both Pelayo and Broneer bring strong Broadway vocals to Fiona’s song “This Is How A Dream Comes True”.
Hats off to costumer Jaclyn Khitikian for creating the characters of the Duloc Kingdom, especially the inspired “little person” costume idea for Lord Farquaad that has the audience in stitches every time he appears. Played with relish by Akirin Au and Henry McLaughlin, Farquaad is even funnier in the play than in the movie. Pinocchio is another very funny character played with delicious sarcasm by Victoria Field and Riley Barone. The amorous dragon is played with passion and tenderness by Karen McGovern and Veronica Koutsky.
The entire ensemble of fairytale folks and citizens of Duloc are outstanding including Lucy Fossa, Ellia White, Clara Ceerla, Rowan Farley, Arizona Alexakis, Harrison Farley, Hudson Barone, Gianna Lucio, Augie Matsuura, Sydney Kim-Tang, Maggie Lowe, Sienna Lucio, Fiona Pudi, Madeline Moore, Sara Kung, Scarlett Ray, Leah Broneer, Paxton Kim-Tang, James Pudi, Gwyneth Daly, Annie Sawran, Carolyn Mottern, Jacob Noveman, and Luke Lowe.
Mirai Booth-Ong really gets to have fun with the choreography on this one and she does not disappoint. The production design hits all the right swamp, fairytale notes and the direction by Jack Bennett keeps the pace moving and grooving to the big “I’m A Believer” finish! Ultimately Shrek is about learning to love yourself and allowing others to see and be their true selves too. This message of acceptance and kindness is a much needed breath of fresh air wrapped in a highly entertaining package.
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission. Shrek Jr. is on stage now at Fremont Centre Theatre through March 24 at 1000 Fremont Avenue in South Pasadena. For showtimes and ticketing, as well as more info about YST, you can go to www.YoungStarsTheatre.org