By Dee Jae Cox

It began with writer/cartoonist William Steig’s 1990 fantasy picture book, Shrek. The story of an ugly monster who finds his equally ugly princess.  It won several children’s book awards when first published, despite some objections at the time that it was questionably suitable for children.  In 2001 DreamWorks produced an Animated film adaptation of, Shrek, which led to the 2008 Broadway production of “Shrek The Musical.” With music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, the stage version of this story ran for over 12 months and won a “Best Costume design,” Tony Award.

The most recent incarnation of this show is on stage at the Palm Canyon Theatre in Palm springs.  Shrek, (performed by Eric Stein-Steele, in the titular role) tells the story of an outcast ogre who, thinking he will never be loved and just wants to be left alone.  But his solitary plans are foiled when all of the fairytale characters in the kingdom become outcasts and are banished to his swamp.  In an effort to rectify this and reclaim to his land, he is quested by Lord Farquaad, (Keith Alexander,) to rescue Princess Fiona, (who isn’t what she first appears to be.)

While the premise sounds like an upbeat tale of realizing that ugly isn’t always evil and pretty is more of a surface façade, this story falls way short of being a pleasurable experience for anyone over the age of 12. Unless farting and burping contests are your thing, Shrek The Musical is much better suited for a children’s afternoon matinee.  Which is fine, as long as you go knowing that’s what’s in store.  I kept hoping to see chemistry between the ogre and the princess that was more than gaseous, but alas, though destined to live happily ever after, this fairytale seemed to lack inspiration.


The script is choppy, as if edited for brevity rather than cohesion.  I have not seen a previous production of this show, but can’t help wondering if it lost some integrity since its Broadway debut. Thirty minutes into the show, the furrowed brow still lingered on my face as I tried to get a grasp on the storyline. There seemed to be multiple aspects of the plot with holes and it continuously left me wondering how I had missed major plot points?  Who had cast Fiona’s curse and why? Who was the evil Lord Farquaad, and why did I care if he did or did not become king and why did he need to marry a Princess to fulfil that goal?  Why did Fiona, need a true love’s kiss in order to become her true self?  So many characters, so few questions answered.

Outstanding performances were easily identifiable.  They made this show worthwhile.  Lou Galvan, as Shrek’s sidekick, the Donkey, was absolutely a show stealer.  His performance made me sit up in my seat every time he took center stage. Caroline McKinzey as Fiona, (as well as her younger versions performed by, Victoria Herrera and Gracie Van Dijk,) brought spring rain to a drought. And Jaci Davis as the Dragon’s singing voice was pure magic.

Though Palm Canyon’s Orchestra is top tier, (Jaci Davis, piano/musical director, David Bronson, Drums, Larry Holloway, bass, John Pagels, Guitar,) the musical score for Shrek just isn’t that memorable. None of the songs were on repeat after leaving the theatre, though a couple of the choreographed numbers were mesmerizing. Fiona and the Dragon, “This is How Dreams Come True,” & The Donkey and Three Blind Mice, “Make a Move,” as well as Fiona and the rats, “Morning Person,” were most certainly the exceptional performances in this production.

Costume Design was the single Tony award for this show’s Broadway production and Palm Canyon Theatre’s resident talented costume designer Derek Shopinski, served up his own competition in that category.

Shrek, tries really hard to “Fly their freak flag,” and have a moral message that resonates, but unfortunately, I just couldn’t get past the smell.

Shrek The Musical is in production at the Palm Canyon Theatre October 22 – November 7.

For ticket information please visit

Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer.  She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project.

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