Ottawa Event Review: Shrek the Musical

I just saw Orpheus Musical Theatre’s production of Shrek: The Musical at Centrepointe Theatres (www.centrepointetheatre.ca). Despite having heard nothing but great things about their productions in the past, I have to admit that this is the first production that I have seen by Orpheus, and now I’m kicking myself for not having seen them sooner. WOW, was I impressed. Whether you are a musical theatre fan or not, this show is absolutely mind-blowing. From catchy musical numbers, to fast-paced dance numbers, to the visual spectacle that is the scenery, makeup artistry and costuming, there is something for audience members of all ages. You can find a trailer for the show here.

Centrepointe Theatres is a beautiful venue, with amazing acoustics, with not a bad seat in the house. I sat to the right side of the stage, and could see and hear everything on stage perfectly. The staff at the venue are courteous and helpful, and really help to create a high-end theatre-going experience.  I stayed in my seat during the intermissions, so I cannot comment on food and beverage services or offerings, but I can say that the large theatre is well designed and very clean, and that it was a very enjoyable place to watch a show.

The story follows very closely the story of Shrek that we know from the movies. Many favourite characters are a part of the show: Shrek, obviously, but also Donkey, Fiona, Lord Farquaad, Gingy (the Gingerbread Man), and Pinocchio, to name just a few. I was pleasantly surprised that the musical is so close to the story of Shrek that I know and love. And when set to music, with a hugely talented cast and a phenomenal orchestra, this fairy tale comes to life in the most magical way.

Shrek is the character that audiences remember and love from the films. Played by Justin Hills, the audience experienced the ups and downs of Shrek’s journeys, and Hills really did a great job. We laughed at his antics, and we sighed sadly at his misfortunes. He really captured the essence of the character; it’s not easy bringing such an iconic character to life, but Hills did this, and quite well.

Princess Fiona, played by Vivian Burns Melsness, was very entertaining. Burns Melsness brought a spunky, comedic quality to the character, and really captured the hearts of the audience. Singing, dancing, and acting, Burns Melsness leaves the audience wondering, “is there anything this girl can’t do?” I really enjoyed her performance.

I don’t like to give away storylines in my reviews, but I like to point out things to keep an eye out for, as well as favourite moments and standout performances from shows. And I must say, the standout performance in this show for me was Donkey, played by Damien Broomes. This guy is 100% talent. His singing voice is smooth and flawless, but above that, his delivery and comedic timing were on point for the entire show. I found myself looking forward to his scenes. Now, I have seen dozens of broadway shows in New York, and I can honestly say that Broomes’ performance is on par with the caliber that I am used to seeing on those big stages. I am not sure what he is doing in Ottawa, but I hope that he never leaves, and continues to entertain audiences here for a long time to come. Just incredible.

Another standout performance came from Réjean Dinelle-Mayer as Lord Farquaad. Again, without giving too much away, this performance was unbelievable. In my opinion, definitely the funniest character in the show. I think that often, the art that is comedic acting is often overlooked, which is really a shame. Because it is an art, one that Dinelle-Mayer has mastered. I loved every minute that he was on stage, and he had me, as well as the rest of the audience, in stitches.

My favourite character in the films has always been Gingy, and Meagan Chapin, as both Gingy and the Sugarplum fairy, did not disappoint. I am pretty sure that I laughed harder than anyone at the famous line, “Not my gumdrop buttons!” Her delivery was perfect. I am so glad that Orpheus cast someone who was able to take this character to the level that it needs to be.

Vocally, Jerusha Lewis, as the dragon, really delivered a standout performance. This girl can SING. I almost couldn’t believe that she was singing live, that’s how great she was. Keep an eye out for that scene…it’s really remarkable, and was a highlight of the show!

I’ve got to give a few mentions of other characters who really stood out for me: Vanessa Monteiro is fantastic as Baby Bear, and Morgan Coughlan, as the Mad Hatter, really stole the scene in all of the dance numbers that he was in.

This review would not be complete without giving massive credit to a few of the people behind the scenes who brought this magical show to life. First, the costume designer, Sandy Goldsmith. I was blown away with the creativity that went into the costumes for this show. These costumes became reality due to the hard work of cutter Allison Hamilton and Wardrobe Supervisor Alison Foley. Also, the choreography really impressed. This was the work of Mary Hills, and I enjoyed each and every step that I saw on stage, particularly the Rat dancing/tap scene, which was phenomenal. I couldn’t help but notice the fine detail that went into the hair and makeup of the chorus members. Of course, Shrek was green, which looked great on stage, but I was really amazed by the makeup of the actors who were in the smaller roles, no doubt the hard work of a group of talented volunteer makeup artists behind the scenes. These are the unsung heroes of theatre performances, and I think it’s important to acknowledge their skills and talents, which really make a show.

If you get the opportunity, I would highly recommend, almost INSIST that you see this show. Tickets are going fast, and will certainly only start to go faster as word gets out about the incredible quality of this show. Tickets are available here and there are discounts available for children, seniors, and students. I sincerely hope that you get the opportunity to see this spectacular show, which runs through November 26th, 2017, at Centrepointe Theatres.