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FairfaxVienna Youth Players uproariously storm the castle in ‘Shrek’

Vienna Youth Players uproariously storm the castle in ‘Shrek’

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Summer is the perfect time for lighthearted, fun theatrical productions and Vienna Youth Players’ “Shrek: The Musical” fits the bill beautifully.

The show’s two-plus hours flow by quickly, punctuated by plenty of laughs and clever song lyrics.

The play, featuring music by Janine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, is based around DreamWorks Animation’s blockbuster movie “Shrek.” VYP’s production honors the storied movie franchise with numerous fine performances, inventive costuming and versatile sets.

The musical begins inauspiciously for ogre Shrek (Will Choi) and future princess Fiona (Jordyn Jones). Both sets of parents abandon them to their fates.
Grumpy-but-lovable Shrek ends up living alone comfortably in a swamp; Fiona whiles away the years in solitude in a castle that’s surrounded by lava and guarded by a fierce – and spunky – dragon (Marz Jackle).

Shrek’s swamp soon becomes home to a gaggle of fairytale characters, banished there by Lord Farquaad of the Kingdom of Duloc. The ensemble does a great job here, especially Pinocchio (Lilly Bottlick) and gingerbread character Gingy (Caroline Heyerdahl).

“I’m wood, I’m good, get used to it!” Pinocchio says at one point.
Shrek is unhappy that his peace has been disrupted and while setting off to air his grievance with Farquaad saves Donkey (Jonah Uffelman, in a fine performance), who then becomes his travel companion, thorn in side, conscience and best friend.

Uffelman’s brother, Ethan, is a scream as Farquaad, a diminutive monster with daddy issues who seeks a wife so he can become king. The actor credits his mother for his brilliantly foppish red-and-blue costume.

Farquaad learns of Fiona’s existence and, coward that he is, sends Shrek to bring her back from the dangerous castle so he can marry her.

Shrek finds Fiona, who harbors a secret, and Donkey encounters a fire-breathing friend. All that remains is to make sure the right couple remain together, in spite of Farquaad’s planned marriage to Fiona.

Jones is strong, vulnerable and funny as Fiona, despite her considerable strength, as some friendly forest creatures learn. (Kudos to the prop department here.) She has a solid singing voice and plays well off of Choi, especially during their periodic spats.

(Lia Davila will play Fiona in the Aug. 5 and 6 shows.)

The sets, overseen by Nate Goss, Skye Marsili and Timothy Cedrone, employ three-sided backdrop panels on rollers, allowing for quick changes to different venues. Costumes were a tall order for the production and capably were filled by Jane Ferrara, Karen Wright, Kelly Pulsifer, Sam Jalajel, and Frost Middle School’s parents and students.

Director Nicole Pradas and assistant director Heather Colbert marshal the massive cast well throughout the production. Vocal director Olivia Thompson and assistant Karina Marchenko also elicit good work from the performers.

One quibble: This production, like increasing numbers of others recently, does not provide a paper copy of the playbill and instead has patrons access it on their smartphones via a QR symbol at the door. Programs cost a bit to design and print, but help inform audience members, who either can retain them as keepsakes or recycle them for future shows. (Reviewers need them, too, to award proper credit.)

The show is a delight and a welcome respite from the summer heat and dispiriting current events. The cast and crew, many in multiple roles, produce excellent results.

• • •

“Shrek: The Musical” runs through Aug. 7 at the Vienna Community Center. Remaining shows – tickets for which are going quickly – are Aug. 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 7 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15.

For more information, visit viennava.gov./residents/concerts-and-events/theatre-companies.

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