Shrek makes believers for Falls musical

A green ogre is moving into the Scotiabank Convention Centre.

For its annual December musical, Linus Hand Productions has reeled in Shrek the Musical for six performances starting Dec. 9. With a huge cast of professional actors and about 50 students from Hand's drama academy on Thorold Stone Road, it's a show he has eyed for years hoping the rights became available.

It's the most modern show he has staged, after the likes of Mary Poppins and Annie in recent years.

“As good as Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz were, they're both about 50 years old,” he says. “So the humour's about 50 years old.

“Whereas the humour in Shrek is really, really funny. I saw it a few years ago and thought 'I'd love to do it if the rights come up.'”

Based on the massively popular 2001 animated movie (which itself was based on a 1990 picture book), Shrek the Musical opened on Broadway in 1998 and played for more than a year, earning eight Tony nominations. Despite its popularity, the production struggled to recoup its $25 million budget.

A more streamlined version appeared in 2010, and proved successful on the West End and for a lengthy run in London. It has played in nearly 20 countries since.

With a plot closely following the first film, Hand says the musical also works for adults because of its cheeky approach to fairy tales “and Disney in particular.”

Director Maria Correll, who started her career with The Second City in Chicago, says the show – like the movie – has a strong message beyond the laughs and slapstick.

“It's such a great message about inclusion, and being who you are,” she says. “Being happy with who you are and not hiding. It's very much a parable for these times as well, and I love that the kids are getting that message.”

The show will lean on professional actors for the four key roles: Hamilton's Dave DiFrancesco (Shrek), Toronto's Lauran Olmstead (Fiona), Toronto's Gavin Bowerman (Lord Farquaad) and former Niagara Falls resident Preston Vendramin (Donkey).

“It's not just a kids show,” says Bowerman. “It's a fairy tale that adults really appreciate, not just tolerate.”

“It has a lot of heart,” adds DiFrancesco. “It has a great message about being yourself and being okay with that. Which is great to see, especially in a fairy tale setting. It's not so much about 'perfect love.'”

By John Law, Niagara Falls Review

Shrek makes believers for Falls musical!