Since we were going to be knee to knee for the next two hours, I decided we should get acquainted. “Are your kids in the show?” I asked.
He nodded. “My older daughter is the Ugly Duckling and the younger one is Goldilocks. How about you?”
“Lots of friends in the show.”
We soon discovered that his daughter takes singing lessons from the same teacher as my hairdresser’s son, Kyle Bertness, who plays Donkey.
The lights dimmed.The orchestra started playing in the pit, the horns a bit squeaky. Behind me, a little boy chattered excitedly with his mother as “Shrek the Musical” began with Shrek’s Scottish-accented voice setting the scene.
On stage, more than 50 fairy tale characters gathered in the Ogre’s swamp. Then Shrek emerged from his shack in all his green glory to wild applause. It was just like the movie, except that I knew people on the stage. A couple in our church choir played multiple roles, including Mother Goose and a Bishop. In real life, they’re both pediatricians. Their youngest son was Puss-n-Boots. One of their older sons worked the lights. My hairdresser, Karlia, who had just cut my hair on Friday, was the dragon and her son Kyle stole the show as the singing and dancing Donkey. Her other children were also in the cast.
That’s the way it is with local theater. The people on stage and behind the scenes are people you also see at church or the supermarket. I could not see Shrek’s real face under his costume but discovered later that actor Stu Clausen works at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. In a small town, everybody knows everybody, and it’s great.
The show itself is delightful. The story is that the evil Lord Farquaad, played by Brian Hanna, has evicted the fairy tale characters from his land and sent them to live in Shrek’s swamp. But Shrek is not a people person and wants them gone. Lord Farquaad offers a deal: If Shrek will rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona from the tower where she has been confined all her life and bring her to marry him, he’ll give Shrek back his land. Shrek sets off to the rescue the princess, joins up with the crazy Donkey and rescues Fiona, played by Kendra Hanna. But there are complications, including romance blooming between the ogre and the princess.
It’s a kid’s story with fabulous music and jokes that are sophisticated enough for grownups. This production is put on by Coastal Act Productions, which specializes in massive musicals that include lots of children, along with experienced adults in the leading roles. Kids from age 3 on up play all the familiar fairytale characters, including the three pigs, three bears, Pinocchio, and Red Riding Hood. We’ve got tap-dancing rats and soft-shoeing blind mice. Not every cast member sings well and there seemed to be a problem with the curtains on Saturday, but it doesn’t matter. The energy is high, the jokes are funny, and the costumes are delightful.
Shrek is fun. The theater is close to home, parking is easy, and tickets cost a lot less than they do on Broadway.
After the show, the cast lined up in the lobby to meet the audience. It was loud and wonderful, but I had to scurry off to play the piano for the 5:30 Mass at Sacred Heart just up the street. Scurry is an exaggeration. I’m still limping on my sprained ankle, but the crutches are back in the closet.
“Shrek the Musical” goes on for two more weekends at the PAC. Performances are on Thursday and Friday nights, plus one more Saturday matinee and evening performance on Jan. 17. Seats are going fast. Visit Coastarts.org for information or to buy tickets.
[Shrek picture courtesy Coloringpages101.com]