Review by Danny Gaisin
One of the challenges facing any professional critic is having to review the same presentation without repeating adjectives or worse – repeating an article. I was introduced to SHREK by a Mississauga community theatre ten months ago and adored the ludicrous story line about the recluse whose swamp is invaded by expelled fairytale characters and so must embark on a quest to obtain permanent property rights. Theatre Sheridan’s take is about as entertaining and professional as anything ‘Downtown’ could stage. The singing/acting is non-pareil; the costuming delightful; and the directing -immaculate. Even the off-color bits aren’t disturbing given our era of overly sensitive political correctness.
The direction by Keith Pike is somewhat tongue-in-cheek yet completely professional. The attention to every detail, presented by the entire cast of characters, somehow enables them to add a scintilla of psyche to what is essentially an imaginary children’s storybook eccentricity. Surprisingly, it makes the audience think about what Pinocchio endures, or why the Gingerbread man gets almost ‘waterboarded. Even the villain of the piece is subtly biopsied. Pike has obviously instilled a performing delight in his charges as their smiles ring of real pleasure rather than the toothsome falsities of a Miss America contender.
There are no weak representations, but as always, a few noticeable standouts. The leads – a given; but among the support cast; the ‘three little pigs’ are so stupefying as to forever destroy the scatological term for police officers or less than beautiful women. Same goes for the 3 bears…all are certainly ‘just right’; especially Mitch Wood & Kayden Tonita having to get noticed alongside Sophie Lea McLeod. The scene with the tri-periods of Fiona is cleverly done and all 3 interpretations work. For dance & chorus fans, the Rats/Pied Piper number is exquisitely choreographed and flawlessly performed on the magical moving stage. The Act II opening with Fiona joined by the ensemble to detail her being a ‘Morning Person’ is highly polished and with a creative almost a cappella recorder, is a showstopper. The two other winners, ‘Story of My Life’ and especially “I know it’s Today’. If a CD is made by Sheridan; all 3 are must includes!
The three main roles belong to the title of the piece portrayed by Benjamin Doncom whose makeup must take at least an hour, and who possesses an emotional tenor that can’t help but please any listener. Unfortunately, his body language & demeanor belie anything scary. His wingman/sidekick is a talking donkey played to the hilt by Joel Cumber. His gay-ish mannerisms certainly suit what is essentially a fairy tale. Like a ‘Mr. Bones’ (Jerry Lewis/Stan Laurel/Lou Costello) half of a partnership, he, like they, never may win but have the best lines and all the oblique put-downs. The love interest is Princess Fiona (who – like Rapunzel) is locked away until her K.I.S.A. (knight in shining armor) KISSES & rescues her. All per her carefully researched book of stories. Mariah Campos as Fiona sells every one of her solos and properly displays the regal backbone & entitlement mood reminiscent of every ‘princess’ I dated before meeting (& marrying) Terry. Campos handles the pratfalls; farting competition and nocturnal metamorphoses with enough aplomb to seem probable. (I believe today’s term is schizophrenia).
The above-mentioned villain is little Lord Farquaad played on his knees by Harrison John Royal Smith. His mobile face and demeanor make him avoid any ‘booing at curtain. Naturally the hints as to his vertical challenges are anything but subtle. Being personally reduced from 5’6 to about 5-foot three inches, they touched a nerve! Same with the gastritis episode. Mr. Rubinoff; as a lawyer as well as a producer/teacher- think I have a case for elder abuse?
SHREK will be onstage at Sheridan until December 11th. 7:30 curtain