Now, that is one hot dragon.
The Broadway tour of “Shrek the Musical,” based on the 2001 megahit animated movie and, before that, William Steig's children's book, took over the Orpheum Theater for the start of an eight-show run Tuesday night — and the biggest hit of the night was the giant dragon, brought to life by four talented puppeteers.
It dips and circles and flies and sings (the gorgeous voice of Courtney Daniels) and falls for Donkey, just like in the movie.
And the biggest hit among the characters played by humans was — say what? — runty little Lord Farquaad, played to the hilt of vanity and nastiness by Christian Marriner. That's not an easy thing to do, since Marriner's costume requires him to do the entire performance on his knees. Short little legs are attached in front of his lower torso, and Marriner drew gales of laughter with the creative bits of business he manages with those fake legs.
On top of it, he's got a terrific baritone voice, killer comedic instincts and the guile to charm the audience as he preens and sneers and delivers sexual double entendres all the way through “The Ballad of Farquaad.”
But wait. Aren't the dragon and Farquaad the show's nasties? As Shrek might say in his Scottish brogue, somethin's a wee bit upside down there, don't ya think?
It's not that Perry Sook, as lovable green ogre Shrek, and Whitney Winfield, as feisty Princess Fiona, don't have their moments. Winfield, in particular, showcases a beautiful, soaring soprano on the comedic Act 2 opener “Morning Person.” And she's terrific as one-third of a trio of Fionas at different ages, waiting in their tower to be rescued in “I Know It's Today.” It's a winning performance.
Sook, too, has strong vocal gifts — but rarely gets to cut loose and display them in flowing melodic lines — the kind that have you humming on your way out the door.
Jeremy Gaston exuded energy and attitude as Donkey, but his comedic delivery was less consistent.
Did Farquaad get all the show's best bits, or did Marriner simply make the most of what he had to work with?
Numbers featuring the fairy-tale creatures whom Farquaad banishes to Shrek's swamp didn't much fly. Pinocchio's falsetto voice in particular was both difficult to understand and wearing.
“Shrek the Musical” is great on visual spectacle, from a great big moon to rising and setting suns, colorful costumes to shifting forests of trees, tap-dancing rats to Fiona's sparkling gown in the climactic scene.
But it's a mixed bag when it comes to the storytelling and score, in spite of witty references to other musicals and pop culture (the Tom Osborne joke went over big, as did Farquaad's nod to “Call Me Maybe” and his horse's surprising name).
And you have to wonder if it's wise to let a family show that drew scores of little ones Tuesday night run well past 2½ hours, partly because of a late start and a too-long intermission.
Still, Tuesday's crowd of nearly 1,700 found plenty to enjoy and applaud, standing through an extended curtain call that stretched into a peppy finale of “I'm a Believer.” Whether Broadway musical hard-cores find they can fully embrace “Shrek the Musical” or not, fans of the movie and families may find it easier to love.
Contact the writer: