Shrek, absolutely charming

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - October 1, 2014 - 12:00am

One of these days, I will take time out to research how Shrek came about. I want to find out how writer William Steig thought of turning the ogre, the classic fairy tale villain, into a sweet, heroic and absolutely romantic leading man as well as how all those other fairy tale characters were also turned upside down. I read somewhere that the movie that resulted from that idea was somebody’s way of upending the tenets that lie behind the Disney bandwagon.

You know the Disney empire, they have beautiful princesses and princes charming and cute forest creatures and villains to fear. The Shrek tale also has those but all with an ironic twist that may be absurd or just plain funny.

Apparently, a lot of movie fans agreed with the concept. They have already turned three Shrek movies into huge box-office hits. And when something like that happens, can the stage musical be far behind?

And there is indeed a Shrek musical with more or less the same story, lots of new songs and jokes that add up to an entertaining show. The local Atlantis Production is now playing on weekends at the Meralco Theater up to Sunday, Oct. 12.  I watched it last week and I must say I found it to be much, much more than what I expected. This Shrek is absolutely charming and despite some adult humor and toilet jokes, is a great piece for the whole family.

Directed by Bobby Garcia with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, Shrek is the story of Shrek a little green ogre sent by his parents to live in the swamp and perhaps get lost to the world and of little princess Fiona who was sent by her parents to live in the tower and hopefully also disappear until... Thanks though to a noisy, meddlesome Donkey and to the scheming, vertically challenged Lord Farquaad, Shrek and Fiona were both freed from their prisons and ended up happy after the experience of true love’s kiss.

How they get from swamp and tower to the happy ending is what the musical is about and I must say that Atlantis was certainly up to the task of bringing this show to the local stage. Admittedly, while there had been instances wherein we found shows worth every bit of our precious time and hard-earned cash, there have also been times when we would have gladly set the clock backwards. What a waste. I wish I had just stayed home. I wish I had just saved the money. Not in this case. This Shrek is so enjoyable that I have this urge to watch the show again.

Garcia’s direction is smooth. Segues are seamless. Why, even that dragon was moving with ease. And that is as well as everybody else. Casting is Garcia’s strong point. He has this knack for finding the right actor for the job and while he may at times make unlikely choices, he still comes out right at the end. Shrek is one of his best ever. Everybody, from the leads to the ensemble, is ideal for their roles and turns in excellent work.

Rycharde Everley plays Shrek and Sheila Valderrama-Martinez is Princess Fiona, while Carla Guevara Laforteza is the lovelorn dragon. These two girls stop the show with their amazing vocals and Everley provides touching moments with Shrek’s whimsical ballads.  Obviously having more fun with their characters though are Nyoy Volante as the irrepressible Donkey and an always-on-his-knees Jett Pangan as Lord Farquaad, son of Grumpy, the dwarf and some runaway princess. These rockers have become two of our most versatile stage actors and Shrek has given them hilarious roles they can really play with. Of course, they can also sing and dance up a storm.

And that is not all there is about this show. Shrek was actually on his way to help the fairy tale characters whom Farquaad has exiled get their land back when he met Fiona. And so they are all there in some of the most wonderfully designed costumes ever seen. I am sure you will easily pick out The Three Little Pigs, The Three Blind Mice, Pinocchio, the Gingerbread Boy, the Big Bad Wolf, Humpty Dumpty, The Fairy Godmother and so many others singing and dancing on stage.

The kids are ecstatic at the sight.  Mom and Dad are laughing at the witty and funny lines. Everybody is having a great time at Shrek.

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