OnStage Massachusetts Critic
SPRINGFIELD, MA - ‘Shrek: The Musical’, directed by Jasmine Joy Kearse and produced by J-ART, recently played at the Jewish Community Center of Springfield. This well-known story first hit Broadway stages in 2008 after the success of the films; the first premiering in 2001. Since then the story about self-acceptance, friendship and finding true lovehas been a favorite for kids and kids at heart. While the director’s note promised a creative spin on the show, whatever it was, landed among the multiple things that missed the mark, but that didn’t stop the audience from laughing and thoroughly enjoying the production.
The set was kept simple which allowed for the colorful and detailed costumes to shine and bring the story book characters to life. The creation and movement of the large dragon puppet was very well done. The voice of the Dragon was performed as a duet (offstage) by Taylor Rose Minkens and Stephanie Simon Norman who delivered a strong rendition of “Forever”. Having two vocalists perform as the Dragon allowed for more power and dynamics to come through and both Taylor and Stephanie did a wonderful job. Casey Crowther, as Pinocchio, had good vocal characterization throughout the show.
The lighting could have used more attention,as numerous times throughout the production the performers were standing indarkness in certain areas of the stage. Based on my observation there were two possibilities for this: the lights were not hung at the correct angles therefore leaving parts of the stage with no light or the lights were not cued correctly in which case the board operator should have manually adjusted the light upon seeing full sections downstage with no light and performers singing in the dark.
Lord Farquaad, portrayed by Peter Vaiknoras was amusing and delivered solid vocals. Vaiknoras, successfully met the physical demands of his character throughout the lengthy production. Shrek, played by Courtney Stewart, was enjoyable to watch and played off the quirkiness of Donkey very well. Katie Fitzpatrick, who played Donkey, delivered a solid comedic performance and though her diction could have been clearer, she performed with wonderful energy that made her an audience favorite.
Disappointingly, a technical problem with Fitzpatrick’smicrophone caused many of her vocals during the musical numbers to go unheard and her spoken lines to often be muddled. Considering how much of the show Donkey is in,thatmicrophone should have been correctly leveled before each performance and new batteries installed. All that being said, there were a number of other sound issues throughout the performance including feedback through the speakers, microphones being left onwhen actors were backstage and incorrect microphone levels which leads me to the conclusion that sound is an area in need of attention and improvement for future productions.
The highlight of the first act came from the Fiona trio singing “I Know It’s Today” with Madison Goodman as Young Fiona, Sydney Goodman as Teen Fiona and Savannah Fitzgibbons as Fiona. These ladies delivered wonderful vocals on their solos and blended beautifully when singing together. They all looked alike, which helped sell the Fiona ageing process, their similar characterizations and vocal tones guided the audience into believing they were really watching Fiona grow up.
The choreography, at times well done, was more often than not,poorly executed by the dancers. My suggestion is that the choreographer should create the dances based on the skills of the dancers they have, in order to deliver a polished number for the audience. A higher degree of difficulty is nice to have (i.e. an illusion or tour jeté), but if the dancer is unable to execute the moves correctly and cleanly; then it is best to use simpler moves that the dancer can perform well.
There were multiple times when many in the ensemble lacked the appropriate facial expressions and looked rather bored and tired during the group numbers. However, Nicole Hines, the dance captain who portrayed multiple characters throughout the production, was consistently engaged and energized. Interestingly, the number with the most energy from the cast was “I’m A Believer” which was performed at the end of the show after the curtain call.
Overall, this amusing production was one the audience highly enjoyed. For more information about upcoming productions at the Springfield Jewish Cultural Center visit https://www.springfieldjcc.org
For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/