Review: 'Shrek The Musical' by Newbury Musical Theatre Company

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • OnStage Connecticut Critic

“Story of my life…”

Southbury, CT - Newbury Musical Theatre Company was back again this weekend with a splashy production of ‘Shrek The Musical.’ This marked the ninth summer production for the company that is based in Southbury as they presented the fairy tale musical on the Pomperaug HS stage in Southbury, complete with a fabulous 14-piece orchestra. Previous productions for Newbury include ‘Oklahoma,’ ‘Anything Goes,’ ‘Beauty and the Beast, Jr.,’ ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and last year’s ‘Hairspray.’ This year the junior division did ‘Peter Pan, Jr.’

Some may dismiss the story of the journey of the green ogre as “just for kids” or worse, but I always enjoy it. I love picking out the costumes that identify the displaced fairy tale creatures and I can’t resist a donkey who can’t stop talking The musical numbers continue to grow on me at each additional rendition and it is fun to see how each director will tackle the technical challenges. In this case, director Jim Tornatore did a great job with all of them and he had time to appear in the show as one of the palace guards/prisoners. 

Jacob Rogotzke, a rising senior at Pomperaug, was “big” in the title role; he was big on stage presence, big on voice, big on being green. This role was written for this talented young actor. Donkey was played well by John Duron, a graduate of Western CT State University, and his outstanding makeup made his costume perfect.  

Kathryn Cavanaugh was a fabulous and funny Fiona; what a voice this American Musical and Dramatic Academy graduate has! Fiona as a girl was nailed by the super Jane Shearin in her Newbury debut, and Christina Finkenzeller sang as the teen princess. Ms. Shearin, who played both Puck and Jojo in NewArts productions in Newtown, also danced as a blind mouse, a tap dancing rat and a Duloc Dancer. 

Charles Romano as Lord Farquaad came dangerously close to stealing every single one his scenes, He will appear in both of the 2016 NewArts productions in August, this year at Walnut Hill Church in Bethel. Halo Award winner Olyvia Shaw of Newtown was another standout as the voice and puppeteer of the amorous Dragon. She rocked her slinky red gown and her singing was fantastic. 

Jamin Mucherino was a high, squeaky Pinocchio and Caitlin Boles was memorable as both Mama Bear and Mama Ogre. All of the freakish fairy tale characters did well, although I missed the rainbow flag waving during “Freak Flag.”

It is impressive that the group had only four days to load into Pomperaug before their first performance and still pulled off the smoke and lighting. I laughed at a few additional pop culture references (three presidential candidates got a mention) and I spotted most of the Broadway nods added by composer Jeanine Tesori. Costumer Molly Farrell-Savage did a fine job with the numerous requirements and wigs. Choreography duties were performed by Lizabeth Skalski and Andrea Yargeau, who also choreographed the tap number in ‘Grand Hotel’ at WAMS and appeared as Peter Pan in this production. 

The musicians of all ages, under the direction of Stephanie Tornatore, did a great job with the various styles of musical numbers. Mr. Tornatore thanked a slew of people for their contributions during his curtain speech and taught us how to sing “I Believe” during the curtain call. I must admit that the final number was filled with joy for both the cast and the audience during this closing performance. Congratulations to Newbury on another fine production; I look forward to next year. 

Photo by Molly Farrell-Savage