Friday, October 11, 2013

GUEST REVIEWER RICK BUSCIGLIO: “SHREK THE MUSICAL” AT THE GROWING STAGE

Because I was unable to review Shrek the Musical at The Growing Stage, I hereby reprint a review by Rick Busciglio at http://www.examiner.com

Young cast of Shrek The MusicalThe full version of the "monster" children's hit Shrek The Musical opened this week at the The Growing Stage, The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey, located in Netcong, New Jersey.

Shrek the Musical with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire is based on the 2001 DreamWorks film Shrek and William Steig's 1990 book Shrek!. It played on Broadway for more than one year and was followed by a tour of the United States. Now Steve Fredericks, artistic director, and his fine Growing Stage creative team have beautifully staged this two hour full version of Shrek with a cast of eight equity professionals and twenty-one supporting performers from local community theater and the Growing Stages' Young Peoples Acting program.

Brandon Lavon Hightower, Tommy J. Dose and Emily Cara PortuneThe hero of the musical, of course, is the big green ogre, Shrek, played with fine style by Tommy J. Dose. Dose's Shrek has a wonderful warm and friendly approach that not only wins the beautiful princess Fiona (Emily Cara Portune, a Growing Stage favorite) but, the junior members of the audience as well. He charms nicely, particularly with his "Big Bright Beautiful World" solo and the duet "I Think I Got You Beat' with Fiona/Emily.

Emily Cara Portune is not only a lovely young woman and fine actress, but she is blessed with an excellent voice. Her other standout numbers are "Morning Person" and "This Is How A Dream Comes True." As all fans of "Shrek" know, the comedy lead is the Donkey. Brandon Lavon Hightower, another Growing Stage regular, has great fun with the part. He has several clever numbers starting with a solo "Don't Let Me Go."

The comic villain is Lord Farquaad (Jason Scott Quinn) the master of the town of Duloc who dreams of marrying the princess in order to become King. Quinn, too, is having fun with his broad playing of the height handicapped Lord Farquaad. The Lord is short more ways than one. (Note: Perry Arthur Kroeger, the prop and puppet designer, deserves a bow for his remarkable horse and throne props he created for Lord Farquaad, plus the dragon).

Standouts in the supporting cast include Peter Quentin Smith as Papa Shrek and the Captain of the Guard; Lori B. Lawrence as Mama Shrek and the Wicked Witch; Steve Nita (a community theater favorite) as Big Bad Wolf and Farquaad's father...one of the Seven Dwarfs!

Special mention must go to another Growing Stage regular the talented Becky Nitka. Nitka plays Pinocchio the wooden puppet who wants to be a boy. She clearly enjoys her time on stage. A list of the entire cast is below.

The key production members are: musical direction Laura Petrie; choreography Jillian Petrie; stage manager Steve Graham; set/prop design/construction Perry Arthur Kroeger; lighting design Steve Fredericks; make-up artists Katrina Burnett, Nicole DeLuca and Britni Morley; light board operator Joey Picatello; spotlight operator Abby Allardice, Kelsey Picatello and Lizzi Scapone; company intern Matthew Fralley; costume design and construction by Mark Happel of Scaramouche Costumes.

Shrek The Musical is a wonderful, high-spirited family entertainment perfect for grandparents and parents of small children, in particular, to introduce their youngsters to a world of live actors, colorful costumes, clever, attractive scenery, bright music and a giant dragon.

Shrek The Musical began on September 27 and runs until October 27, with performances on Friday at 7:30 PM, Saturdays and Sundays at 4:00 p.m. The Growing Stage, The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey, is located in the historic Palace Theatre on Route 183 in Netcong, New Jersey. The Growing Stage is a professional member of the Association of Actor’s Equity.

For additional information please call (973) 347- 4946 or e-mail exdir@growingstage.com.