SHREK THE MUSICAL (Walnut Street): 60-second review

Ben Dibble in SHREK THE MUSICAL. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Never read the book (by William Steig). Never saw the animated movie (Dream Works). Never saw the show (book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Aaire, music by Jeanine Tesori). So the jolly green ogre called Shrek was news to me. The audience at the Walnut Street Theater’s production of this musical seemed to know every bit of the story and greeted each favorite character with wild whoops of joy.

To my surprise (not being a fan of fart jokes), I was completely won over: it’s witty as well as funny (my favorite moment: Pinocchio says to Peter Pan, “Oh, grow up.”). The costumes (Mary Folino) and the sets (Robert Kovach) are spectacular, The enormous, high-energy cast can all dance and sing with joy.

But the show rests on the stars. Nicholas L. Parker is a fine, lumbering Shrek to Julia Udine’s adorable Princess Fiona, and the excellent Ben Dibble outdoes himself as villainous Lord Farquaad (the illusion created of a tiny person with tiny legs is uncanny); Dana Orange is a lovable, tiptop Donkey.

The message here is the moral of most contemporary fairy tales (Wicked, the new Addams Family): tolerance; don’t judge people by their looks. That message is exuberantly delivered in the full-ensemble number, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly” that brought the happy house down.

[Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut Street] November 5, 2019–January 5, 2020; walnutstreettheatre.org

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About the author

Toby Zinman

Toby Zinman is a recently retired professor of English at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a Fulbright professor at Tel Aviv University and a visiting professor in China. She publishes widely and lectures internationally on American drama. Her fifth book, Replay: Classic Modern Drama Reimagined, was published by Methuen, and she published the essay, "Visions of Tragedy in Contemporary American Drama," in 2017. Zinman is also the chief theater critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. She was named by American Theatre magazine as, “one of the 12 most influential critics in America.” Her travel writing has taken her all over the world, from dogsledding in the Yukon to hiking across England.