I attend a lot of theatre. Sometimes one attends a performance and there is just that something extra which means one will never forget that particular performance. Shrek, The Musical. JR. at The People’s Theatre on 5 June 2015 was one of those performances.
Bella and Layla, the five year old twinsesses, celebrated their birthday on 4 June. They were my guests at the opening. They have been to performances at People’s Theatre before, but this one was special for several reasons. Firstly, they are now the perfect age to really start enjoying the magic of theatre. Secondly, they were feted at the end for their birthday. Thirdly, the production itself was magical.
Jill Girard and Keith Smith produce and direct four productions a year for People’s Theatre and over the last twenty or so years I have seen most of them, so I was a little unprepared for the sheer joy which bounced out at the audiences.
Set and lighting design is by Grant Knottenbelt, with sound by Chad Jutronich, costume design by Linda Wilson and stage management by Sizo Tshabalala. Musical direction is by Rowan Bakker.
This doesn’t mean that the show was perfect. There is so much happening backstage with costume changes, wigs and make-up that there are bound to be tiny glitches which critical eyes of cynical adults may detect, but the show was perfect for the children.
Andile Magxaki played Shrek and if he wasn’t frightening to the children it was because Shrek is an endearing rather than a nasty character. Our perceptions of “good looks” are challenged in the story and children know the difference instinctively even if the fairytale creatures, the talking donkey (Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri) are taken in by Shrek’s grumpiness. Thiart Li played Lord Farquaard (and the Wolf and the 1st Knight), while Jana Louw played Fiona and the Mama Ogre. Kyra Jessica Green played the Witch, citizen of Duloc, the 3rd Knight and Gingy. Palesa Makhalima played Mama Bear, a citizen of Duloc, and the Dragon. Christopher Vale played the Captain, a citizen of Duloc, the 2nd Knigt, the Pied Piper, Grumpy and the Bishop while Jessica Willmore played Pinocchio and a citizen of Duloc. That completes the professional cast round up.
Cast 2 of the children performed on opening night with Hannah Cohen, Kaylee Witbooi, Kganya Lebelo, Roshnee Mansingh, April Sandiford, Jo-Ann Mauza, Lucy de Korte appearing as pigs, little Fiona, little Ogre, Papa Bear, Baby Bear, Peter Pan and rats. And all of them played the role of citizens of Duloc.
Of course, this talented cast teaches us about true love, friendship, appearances, and the true nature of ugliness.
The music has some wonderful musical numbers such as “Freak Flag” and “Morning Person” as well as “What’s Up Duloc?” and “I’m a Believer” with lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori. The musical is based on the 1990 book Shrek! by famed New York cartoonist, William Steig, and the 2001 DreamWorks film of the same name.
This production has all the magic of the movie and then the sheer energy of live theatre making it a show the whole family can enjoy.