Dance / “Happiness is…Celebrating 40 Years of Canberra Dance Theatre”. Directed by Jacqui Simmonds at The Street Theatre. October 14. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS
FREE Rain Theatre has come up with another winner with this delightfully quirky production of a fantasy musical about a green ogre named Shrek who, through a combination of his efforts to rescue a group of disposed fairytale characters, and, well, flatulence, finds true love with a feisty princess called Fiona.
Adapted from the popular animated cartoon feature film, the musical features all the favourite characters, but with a lush new score of attractive original songs which are excellently performed by the entire company, accompanied by a terrific band, which under the co-musical direction of Ian McLean and Katrina Tang, thrillingly nails the big Broadway musical sound.
Excellent casting, colourful fairytale costuming and resourceful set designs, enhanced by impressive lighting and sound, give the show a magical fairytale gloss guaranteed to enchant younger audiences. There’s a cheeky, witty script and songs to keep older audience members chuckling.
Michelle Heine has invented some sassy, polished choreography to delight the eyes, and Ylaria Rogers, in her first directorial assignment for Free Rain, impresses with her confident resourceful direction which continually surprises and delights with a succession of quite magical moments.
Heading a topline cast, Laura Murphy, as the feisty Princess Fiona, gives an incandescent performance, lighting up the stage every time she enters. She can do sweet, is a ridiculously accomplished comedienne, an excellent singer and a captivating actress. Her performance alone is worth the price of a ticket.
But wait, there’s more! Max Gambale, as the green ogre, Shrek, provides the perfect foil for Murphy with a finely tuned performance that, besides being beautifully sung, manages to be funny, poignant and charming.
Good performances abound in this production; among them, Joel Hutchings, outstanding in a cleverly realised performance as the Donkey. The duets and trios involving these three characters are among the show’s highlights. Then there’s Martin Searles, hysterically funny as the dastardly, vertically challenged, Lord Farquaad. His is a performance to be relished.
It would remiss not to mention Tegan Braithwaite’s stunning vocalising as the amazing dragon, Max MacMillan’s delightful Pinocchio, Tracey Noble’s Wicked Witch, Benjamin Russell’s upstanding Captain of the Guard, and Mitchell France’s sprightly Peter Pan.
There are many other notable performances among the hard-working ensemble performing multiple roles, but you should go along and choose your own.