“Shrek” Makes His Muny Debut And New Fans Make It An Almost “Cool” Night

Julia Murney as Fiona and Stephen Wallem as Shrek at the Muny this week.

Julia Murney as Fiona and Stephen Wallem as Shrek at the Muny this week.

Last week during the opening show, “Spamalot,” the heralded new fan system had to be turned off due to a cool down after the afternoon rainstorms. This week, “Shrek” was made even more pleasant because of the new fans that kept air circulating throughout the huge Muny Opera audience and made the muggy, 85+ degree temps almost bearable.

Meanwhile, onstage, a talented crew of actors brought the outrageous fairy tale, “Shrek,” to life led by a great performance by Stephen Wallem as the green ogre. Tossing off the grumpy and sarcastic lines with a real flair, he brings the essence of Shrek to life. As his unexpected princess, Fiona, Julia Murney is a delight bringing a crystal clear singing voice to the Jeanine Tesori music and David Lindsay-Abaire lyrics. She also handles the comedy with ease. Rounding out the traveling threesome is Michael James Scott with verve and hilarity as the outspoken donkey.

Rob McClure as Farquaad in "Shrek" at the Muny.

Rob McClure as Farquaad in “Shrek” at the Muny.

Rob McClure just about “walks” away with the show as the vertically challenged Lord Farquaad. With the elaborate get up that forces the actor to move around on his knees, he brings the house down with his clever antics including a musical turn on a tiny piano. All the usual suspects from the movie franchise “Shrek” are on hand as well including the gingerbread man, Pinocchio, the massive dragon and the three blind mice who do a great musical number with Donkey called “Make A Move” and then join the rest of the cast at curtain call with their movie hit, “I’m A Believer.”

Other highlights include the beautiful trio with Fiona and her young self (Maria Knasel) and her teen self (Allison Broadhurst) in the touching “I Know It’s Today,” the stirring “Freak Flag” and the hilarious “What’s Up Duloc?” featuring Farquaad and the palace guards. John Tartaglia has directed with a flair for the nonsensical and the great choreography is by Vince Pesce. The Steve Gilliam set and lights by Nathan W. Scheuer add to the fun.

The impressive moves of the dragon include a stint on the extended thrust during "Shrek" at the Muny.

The impressive moves of the dragon include a stint on the extended thrust during “Shrek” at the Muny.

Although “Mary Poppins,” later in the Muny season, is the official children’s production of the year, “Shrek” drew a huge crowd of parents and youngsters and, at least around me, they all really got into the show with no whining and/or falling asleep. Although kids adore all of the “fart” and “belching” jokes- both in the script and in the lyrics- there are a few inappropriate lines that hopefully went over their heads. “Shrek” plays at the Municipal Opera in Forest Park through Sunday, June 30th to be followed by “Nunsense: Muny Style” with St. Louis native Phyllis Smith.

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