Steel River Gives Families a Reason to Cheer With SHREK THE MUSICAL

by Walter Bender

Steel River Playhouse in Pottstown opened the family musical, SHREK THE MUSICAL on December 5. This is a live action adaptation of the 2001 DreamWorks movie about the lonely ogre that finds friends and love.

Children (and parents) will come to this show with certain expectations…fear not, mom and dad, you and your children will not be disappointed. Shrek, ably portrayed by Bryon Thomas Smith, has the Meyers-esque accent, prosthetics to give Shrek the proper facial features and a padded costume to give him the girth everyone will recognize. Donkey (a spot-on Michael Roman) has the requisite costume, complete with hooves where one might expect hands. Other characters similarly are costumed (including a Pinocchio with growing nose!) and have the characteristics that mirror their movie counterparts, yet give their own interpretation to keep the show interesting.

Bryon Thomas Smith as “Shrek” and Joe Ciresi as “Lord Farquaad”.

Bryon Thomas Smith as “Shrek” and Joe Ciresi as “Lord Farquaad”.

The cast is huge and very skilled. I was impressed with the depth of talent as I watched the show. From the principals to chorus, every featured line had a gorgeous voice to offer. The choreography was terrific, every movement precise and together. Also, I was impressed with the level of concentration in the cast, even the youngest members…at no point could I see anyone losing focus. Visually, this is a holiday feast!

Director Deborah Stimson-Snow did an incredible job with this production. The cast was well-rehearsed, professional in style and discipline, and kept the pace flowing quickly. As a full-length musical, it’s difficult to keep the young audience members from getting fidgety and noisy, yet I saw very little of either throughout the production…kudos to the director and cast for keeping everyone’s interest throughout. Music Director Richard Lewis did an equally amazing job…the cast sounded beautiful, harmonies were spot-on, and the orchestra was so perfect at times audience members thought it may have been a recording. Choreographer Carol Hebert kept things moving throughout the theatre, and the dancing was precise and beautiful.

I have to acknowledge the costume designers, Athene Jordan and Ally Boughter, with the Dragon’s costume designed by Gail Cooper, Pinocchio and Lord Farquaad’s designs by Erinne Aicher. With all of the unique characters in this show (and immediately recognizable to all) it was a huge undertaking…great job to these artists, and to everyone who built the costumes, designed and executed the makeup, and all the prosthetics necessary to bring this show to life.

I sat with a family with two children, one very young boy and a slightly older girl. They were entranced by the performances, and stayed after the show to get their picture taken with the cast (a special holiday gift from Steel River to all audience members.) The only thing I do need to mention is that at almost 3 hours, it may be a bit long for some younger children. However, for a terrific family excursion this holiday season, you need to get to Steel River Playhouse to see this beautiful production.

Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, music by Jeanine Tesori
Based on the 2001 DreamWorks movie, SHREK
Directed by Deborah Stimson-Smith, Music Director Richard Lewis
December 5-22, 2013
Steel River Playhouse
245 E High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464

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