The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools.
Entering the lobby of Baldwin High School’s auditorium, I was floored at the sheer number of people who were anxiously waiting to take their seats to watch the night’s sold out production of “Shrek The Musical.” The opening of the curtain put an end to all of the excited titters; from start to finish, Baldwin’s cast put on a show that will not easily be forgotten.
“Shrek The Musical” tells the story of an ogre named Shrek who lives in solitude in a swamp in the middle of the woods. One day, a rag-tag assembly of fairy tale creatures shows up and delivers some dire news: Lord Farquaad, the ruler of the kingdom of Duloc, has exiled them from their land and sent them to live in Shrek’s swamp. Outraged, Shrek confronts the vertically-challenged Farquaad and demands he send the creatures back to where they came from.
Farquaad and Shrek strike a deal: if Shrek recues a certain Princess Fiona from her dragon-guarded tower and delivers her to Farquaad for them to be we, he may have his swamp back. The audience follows Shrek as he embarks on his journey and is introduced to a plethora of characters, hopefully learning a lesson or two along the way.
The production boasted a dizzying array of sets and backdrops that transported the audience right into the scene that was happening in front of them. Dragon’s fiery lair, Farquaad’s immense castle, and Shrek’s rustic swamp were equally whimsical and impressive. The lighting effects used to create the feeling of being in the sky looking into Fiona’s tower and the tiny twinkling lights set into a black backdrop to create the illusion of a starry sky were absolutely brilliant. An observant audience member would also appreciate the little details that really made the show come to life; the fact that Pinocchio’s nose actually grew produced an immediate gleeful giggle from me. All of the people behind the scenes deserve just as much praise as the actors on stage.
Grant Weaver, who played Shrek, possessed superb singing ability as heard in “Who I’d Be,” “When Words Fail,” and “Beautiful Ain’t Always Pretty,” but left a lot to be desired in the acting department. Shrek is an ogre and therefore should be scary and menacing; in the scenes where anger needed to be portrayed, he came across as feeble. Alizabeth Leng, who played Fiona, faced similar difficulties; she fell short trying to portray the sassy and spirited side of Fiona but wowed the audience with her voice in songs such as “I Know It’s Today” and “Who I’d Be.”
On the other hand, the seemingly supporting characters of Pinocchio, Gingy, and the rest of the cast of fairy tale creatures stole the show. The scene where Gingy is interrogated by Lord Farquaad made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes; Dani Wolfson’s rendition of Gingy was hilarious and absolutely spot on.Could you have given us a details Katie Sabo, who played Pinocchio, commanded the audience’s attention while she was on stage. Her portrayal of the beloved wooden puppet produced a flood of hearty laughs. Each time the gang of fairy tale creatures took the stage a smile formed on my face and I couldn’t help but tap my feet during “Story Of My Life” and “Freak Flag.”.
Exiting the auditorium I was left with a feeling of delightful satisfaction. Not only did the cast of "Shrek The Musical" deliver a first-rate performance, they also delivered the message that different is beautiful, and that one should be proud to let their “freak flag fly.”
Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson. For more high school musicals coverage, go to http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/theater-dance/ and scroll down.