Way Off Broadway’s ‘Shrek’: Good fun
I’ll never forget when I first saw the movie “Shrek.” It was at the Co-Ed, and Steve Lamb was in the audience. The details stand out clearly because I’d never been to a movie where the adults — all of us, not just Steve Lamb, even though he was the loudest — laughed as much as the kids. That’s the genius of “Shrek.” It’s for everyone, and it’s just good fun. Under the direction of Randy West, Way Off Broadway’s final production of the summer, “Shrek the Musical,” is every joyful thing about the movie and more.
The main characters are fantastic. Chaz Williams-Ali is Shrek, the loveable ogre who just wants his swamp back. Chaz’s performances are always larger than life, and playing Shrek is a perfect fit for his comic timing and soul-filled voice. Jonathan Christopher is his sidekick Donkey, the funny best friend Shrek never asked for. Jonathan completely transforms into Donkey, with a hilarious voice and stage-filling physical comedy.
Nicole Santiago-Barredo is back with WOB as the sassy and sweet Fiona, the princess with a secret. From “Miss Saigon,” I knew Nicole had amazing vocal control and emotional range, but I had no idea that she’s really funny, too!
These three talented leads have great chemistry, creating moment after moment of both comedy and tenderness.
But “Shrek” isn’t just about the three leads. The show allows many others to have their moments in the spotlight. Several WOB interns have great moments including Alexandra Bonneau as Gingy the Gingerbread Man, Conor Schulz as Pinocchio, and Jenna Murphy as the Dragon.
But, for me, the shining standout intern performance of the show was Adam Jedlicka as Lord Farquaad. What he lacks in height, he makes up for in personality. He is the bad guy the whole audience loves to hate, and maybe it’s the Miss Hannigan in me, but I do love a good bad guy. Some of the funniest moments of the show belong to Jedlicka.
The cast is rounded out with local talent sharing the stage.
My favorite song of the night, “I Know It’s Today,” is sung by Princess Fiona at three different ages and combines Santiago-Barredo’s lovely voice with the lovely voices of two young local talents, Maya Gottshall and Julia Fritz. I didn’t want those beautiful harmonies to end.
The chorus fills the stage with a powerful vocal sound, and the choreography by Sidney Eric Wright adds to the fairy tale charm of the show. Especially memorable was the peppy “Welcome to Duloc” number, an expanded version of one of my favorite little scenes from the movie.
Way Off Broadway uses a genius accordion-style set which folds back in on itself when not in use, freeing up the stage for big numbers when needed. And the multi-media package was used in new exciting ways that highlighted the action on stage. Alicia Carradus’s whimsical original artwork set the scenes perfectly and added to the overall happy tone of the show.
“Shrek’s” message is one of acceptance and of not judging a person before we get to know them. It’s a message of not being afraid to be yourself — perfectly encompassed in the awesome song “Let Your Freak Flag Fly.” When a show gives a message like that, all wrapped up in great music, talented performances, visual eye candy and loads of laughter, the result is unforgettable. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an audience cheer after so many different numbers during a show. You won’t be able to contain yourself.
With only four more performances, don’t let this show slip away. Celebrate the end of the summer, enjoy the good fun, and take the whole family to Shrek!
The show is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center’s Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts.