Swamped with double meaning: Shrek The Musical advocates unification, critiques trump presidency


The actor, remaining on his knees to imply small stature throughout the entirety of the play, tweeted several times during the performance and even sported a “Make Duloc Great Again” red baseball cap.(Photo provided by theatre)

I’m no shrek-spert but the Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of “Shrek: The Musical” started with off-mark melodies, but finished strong with a socially relevant protest for equality and the demise of a Trump-like Lord Farquad.

The adaptation’s concept of immigration and deportation reflected the current behavior of the United States president.

Farquad, though much shorter and less orange than Trump, preached perfection and conformity within the limits of the mythical city of Duloc, along with deportation of all fairytale creatures.

The actor, remaining on his knees to imply small stature throughout the entirety of the play, tweeted several times during the performance and even sported a “Make Duloc Great Again” red baseball cap.

Simultaneously, Shrek and Fiona symbolized immigrants within U.S. borders.

While Shrek was noticeably the minority and out of place in Duloc, with a strong odor and green tint, Fiona was more inconspicuous, able to fit in during the day but living in fear of deportation and hatred since every night a curse transformed her into an unsightly ogre and she could no longer hide her identity.

The two ogres fell in love and true loves kiss did not change Fiona into a beautiful princess, or the implied legal citizen that would come from marrying the Duloc-born Farquad.

Even the fantasy creatures rose up in protest of their deportation to the swamps, carrying signs stating “Fairy Tale Lives Matter,” “Unification not Deportation” and “Build bridges, not walls.”

The well known characters of nursery rhymes also echoed representations of other oppressed minorities under Trump like the flamboyant and pink-clad three pigs and the cross-dressing, big, bad wolf.

Fiona and Donkey were the best aspects of this musical, with Lord Farquad narrowly coming in third.

Fiona had a strong voice and the best Shrek green sneakers to match her vibrant dual personality of sassy but sweet.

Donkey sounded very much like Eddie Murphy’s voice from the series and rocked a minimally-awful groufit featuring harem pants, a fur vest and a beanie with fuzzy ears attached. He had plenty of fun punchlines from the original movie, but I definitely missed the classic love for waffles.

The most unique aspect of the CRT’s adaptation of “Shrek” was the pervasive use of puppetry and hand-held scenery props.

Pinnochio was a life-size wooden boy carried by a performer in all black, and the Gingerbread Man was presented in the same manner with a very convincing first scene stretched across a rack and intimidated by the tiny Farquad and his milk-wielding Darth Vader-like lackeys.

Donkey’s lover-to-be, Dragon, was actually recreated by three performers also shrouded in black carrying segments like a Chinese New Year dragon puppet.

One person carried the head segment, another carried two wings and the final carried a thick flexible tail that whipped back and forth and even coiled around Donkey.

In Dragon’s debut scene, a stunning actress voiced the lonely winged creature and sang a ballad in a floor-length shimmering gown with captive, bearded knights as sassy back-up dancers.

The human-powered scenery was most prevalent during Shrek and Donkey’s journey, where more performers with props who acted as swaying sunflowers, a sun and moon to show passing of time and along with the dish who ran away with the spoon.

Even Puss in Boots appeared as a flat prop, though he doesn’t actually show up until the second movie in the franchise.

When it came to the weaknesses of the performance, I think the entire production would have actually been more entertaining as just a comedic play rather than a musical, because the main character’s voices did not work well together.

Fiona’s voice was full-bodied while Shrek’s was not, and the musical score ranged in style, sometimes sounding like a melody from “Hairspray” and other times sounding like “Wicked”, but the large chorus of fairytale creatures managed to distract from the poorly chosen songs with a few well placed jokes.

The only scenes that worked well with the music included Dragon or Fiona, where she tries to trap Donkey, or where Fiona narrates her brimstone-breath keeper’s duel with Shrek.

Fiona’s song in adoration of mornings and hope was also entertaining but her intro number where three successively-aged actresses portrayed Fiona throughout her detainment, yet all sang together in a weird diachronic conclusion.

I could have done without Donkey’s jazzy narration of Shrek’s budding love for Fiona, accompanied by the three blind and busty mice, and also the flatulent beat-boxing to illustrate Shrek and Fiona’s similar comfortable confidence.

The jokes, often taken from the original movie, were definitely the redeeming quality of the play along with the humor taken from parodying our 45th president, but my favorite laugh-out-loud moment was during Farquad’s diatribe about his father which somehow turned into an S&M- style number with continued use of the term “daddy,” a leather whip and a few frightened, shirtless actors.

Francesca Colturi is associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at francesca.colturi@uconn.edu.

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