Need a theatrical pick-me-up? Then I’d advise seeing “Shrek the Musical,” Broadway’s version of the DreamWorks film “Shrek” from 2001, and William Steig’s book “Shrek!” published in 1990.
I know what you’re thinking — it’s silly, it’s cheesy, it’s just for kids. It is those things, but the collaborative production of Napa Valley College Department of Theater Arts and Cafeteria Kids Theater is also laugh-out-loud hilarious, even if you don’t bring any children with you.
It’s worth seeing just for actor Michael Conte’s rendition of villain Lord Farquaad, the flamboyant ruler of Duloc who kicks all of the fairy tale creatures out of his kingdom and into the swamp. Conte, who appears to be a tall man, must remain on his knees during his performance as Lord Farquaad, who is a little sensitive about his below-average height. A bustling cape trails behind Conte covering his legs as he shuffles across stage, winking, waving and whining in the most confident, convincing and comical ways.
Meanwhile, the short jokes keep coming as our monstrous protagonist, Shrek (Charles Jaeger) — a large, green ogre with a flatulence problem — and his new sidekick, Donkey (Jaaziel Satten), make their way to Duloc in order to get the fairy tale creatures out of the swamp, where Shrek lives all alone. Instead of Shrek scaring Farquaad into submission, Farquaad assigns Shrek the duty of rescuing Princess Fiona (Lucy Harrington), the woman he plans to marry, from a fire-breathing dragon.
Not-so-happy-go-lucky Shrek’s journey is made better by his new pal, Donkey, who is relentless in his friendship despite some callousness by Shrek and occasional danger. Jazziel Satten, who plays Donkey, is reminiscent of a young Bruno Mars on stage with his smooth vocals, slick dance moves and witty lines.
Although all the children in the show exhibit major talent, it’s easy to see why Satten earned the role of Donkey. Not only does he keep the positivity up, but he adds style and heart to the role — a role that’s difficult to fill considering the film version features actor/comedian Eddie Murphy as Donkey.
Well-known fairy tale characters have become more interesting and more relatable. For instance, the Big Bad Wolf (Ben Mickens) comes out as a cross-dresser, the witch (Stephanie Sabre) is in a wheelchair and the Three Blind Mice (Maeve Roberts, Josie Goldfarb, Sadie Carpenter) are revealed as talented dancers. These characterizations contribute to one of the best songs of the show, “Freak Flag.”
As an unexpected romance develops between Farquaad’s queen-to-be and the ogre, we find out the pitfalls of expectations and assumptions and learn the importance of communication. It’s a modern fairy tale in which the hero isn’t handsome and there is no expansive castle to move into. Instead of being knighted or crowned, our heroes learn what true happiness really is.