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'Shrek' starts Little Theatre season strong

Cardenas_John 5.17.16

John Cardenas plays Peter Pan and a host of other characters in 'Shrek the Musical.'

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SULLIVAN – When a stage show can calm rambunctious children, it must be doing something right.

Little Theatre-On the Square's production of “Shrek The Musical” was promoted as a family show. Parents and grandparents along with their children filled the seats during the first afternoon performance last week. The excitement of the season's first show and the time of day was a good mix for families with small children. Older members of the audience may have worried this might be a distraction, but the Little Theatre's performance calmed everyone in the theater.

The show lived up to the expectations of a big production. Each act began with a high energy production leaving the audience, young and old, laughing or wanting to dance along.

For most of the musical, the cast did their best to entertain both senior citizens and toddlers. Although there were a few moments of adult humor, the colorful and energetic show worked well for the kids too.

Those familiar with the 2001 DreamWorks animated movie “Shrek” would not be surprised by the amount of bodily gasses and subtle inappropriate words.

Unlike the movie, Little Theatre production stressed the moral stand of accepting others with their flaws. "We are different," they sang in the song “Freak Flag.” "This is our story."

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The musical gives the audience a small peek into Shrek's past. A storybook opens with his parents sending him out into the world at seven years old. “Great things will happen,” his mother said to him. “But not for you."

Keeping with the Little Theatre tradition, the music and dancing were at a professional level. What proved to be the most impressive was the amount of actors playing multiple characters. If watching closely, one could see actor John Cardenas on stage as Peter Pan in one scene, then as a guard in the next and as a dancer shortly afterward. The audience could only match other characters and actors by following the playbill. Jamie Finkenthal not only changed costumes but voices as Mama Ogre and as the Dragon.

Because of the tricky positions and costumes of the characters, many had to alter their natural movements. Prosthetics were a common part of the costumes, such as deformed noses and enlarged hind legs. The shortened stature of Lord Farquaad was the most impressive. When fully extended to his natural height, actor Nicholas Carroll is well over 6 feet tall. Throughout the play, he walked on his knees with a cape covering the rest of his legs. We all knew where his legs were hidden, but we still enjoyed the way he walked across the stage.

Director Therese Kincaid understood fans of the movie will have expectations. To keep us happy, many the actors stayed close to the original actors' voices. John Gurdian kept Shrek's Scottish accent. Corbin Williams stayed with the high-pitched, raspy voice of Pinocchio.

On the other hand, Donkey, played by Rakeem Lawrence, was no Eddie Murphy. He was much more animated than the cartoon donkey, to the audience's delight.

“Shrek the Musical” continues throughout the weekend with every fairytale character – and a few extras – represented. With the amount of talent on the Little Theatre stage this summer, variety can be expected. If the energy and size of “Shrek” is a preview of the Little Theatre summer season, all audiences will be have a good time, even the little children.

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