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Barn Theatre review: 'Shrek the Musical' not your predictable fairytale fantasy

A colorful cast of familiar fairytale characters, disillusioned by life and unkept promises of happily-ever-after, seeks self-acceptance and community. Teens, tweens and fun-loving adults are the ideal audience for this relatable musical comedy.

Teen Fiona, played by Brooklyn Pederson, performs during a dress rehearsal for Shrek the Musical at the Barn Theatre on Saturday, June 4, 2022.
Teen Fiona, played by Brooklyn Pederson, performs during a dress rehearsal for Shrek the Musical at the Barn Theatre on Saturday, June 4, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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"Shrek The Musical," directed and choreographed by Casey Paradies, is no predictable fairytale fantasy.

A colorful cast of familiar fairytale characters, disillusioned by life and unkept promises of happily-ever-after, seeks self-acceptance and community. Teens, tweens and fun-loving adults are the ideal audience for this relatable musical comedy.

Setting the stage

An ogre, Shrek (Michael Cola), exiled by his parents on his seventh birthday, seeks to avoid a world that fears and reviles ogres by making his home in a swamp.

Meanwhile, the unpredictable Princess Fiona (Bailey Stahl), imprisoned by her royal parents in a windowless tower, has waited 8,423 days (but who is counting?) for a handsome knight to free her with the kiss of true love.

When Lord Farquaad (Matt Onnen) of the kingdom of Duloc banishes its community of disgruntled fairy tale creatures to Shrek's swamp, Shrek is determined to regain his solitude.

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A loquacious Donkey (Alex Vasquez) befriends the anti-social Shrek. They travel together to the kingdom of Duloc, where they petition Lord Farquaad to remove the intruders.

Lord Farquaad agrees to return the swamp to Shrek after Shrek defeats a dragon, rescues the princess and delivers her to Duloc to become Farquaad's perfect bride. After the marriage, Lord Farquaad will become King Farquaad, the kingdom of Duloc will be perfect, the cacophony of disgruntled fairy tale creatures will return home and a solitary Shrek will regain his peaceful swamp.

At least, that was the plan.

Showstoppers include: "I Think I Got You Beat" (Shrek and Fiona), "Forever" (Dragon and Knights), "Make A Move" (Donkey and Three Blind Mice) and the energetic "Freak Flag" (Company). "Morning Person" (Princess Fiona and a chorus of tap-dancing rats), "Don't Let Me Go" (Donkey), "What's Up, Duloc?" (Farquaad and Duloc Dancers) and "I Know It's Today" (Three Princess Fionas) are also audience-pleasers.

Michael Cola is well-cast as Shrek. His larger-than-life stage presence enhances his characterization of the ogre. His portrayal of Shrek ranges from rough and coarse to sweet and tender.

Alex Vasquez's portrayal of Donkey is a vocal and physical comedic tour-de-force. Willowy, graceful Bailey Stahl's portrayal of Princess Fiona is delightfully bipolar. Matt Onnen, as Lord Farquaad, portrays the cliche melodrama villain.

A musical does not come to life without the magic of behind-the-scenes crew members. Space does not permit publishing their names in this column, but their efforts deserve mention. Without the technical and artistic team, the audience would be in the dark, the stage bare, the music silent and the actors mere ordinary people.

Finally, "Shrek the Musical" is littered with at least 44 lyrics, dialogue and stage direction references to other musicals, movies and pop culture. Upon catching one of these hidden gems, the attentive listener will be granted a knowing chuckle from the fairy godmother.

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Tickets can be purchased online or through the Barn Theatre box office for 7:30 p.m. performances on June 16-18, 23-25, and 2 p.m. performances June 19 and 26.

Tambrance Huisinga is a 30-year veteran of the Barn Theatre.

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