Even ogres find love in ‘Shrek the Musical’ at the Richter

Kevin Bielmeier as Shrek and Emily Walsh as Princess Fiona starred in “Shrek the Musical” at the Richter House Arts Center in Danbury.

Kevin Bielmeier as Shrek and Emily Walsh as Princess Fiona starred in “Shrek the Musical” at the Richter House Arts Center in Danbury.

Priscilla Squiers / Contributed photo

Musicals at Richter, Danbury: While parents today are often accused of coddling their children far too long, such is definitely not the case for ogres who are released from parenting at age seven. Ogres are monsters usually found in fairy tales and folklore. In the outdoor production of “Shrek the Musical” at the Musicals at Richter, one such ogre is decidedly green and most scary to the characters in fairytales who are alive in the musical written by David Lindsay-Abaire with music by Jeanine Tesori. Based on the Dreamworks Animation movie and the book by William Steig, the live production steps off the book pages, out of the flat screen movie, and into the real three-dimensional world. While youngsters love the storyline, this is really a family show and adults embrace it as much as kids.

The story is all about being true to yourself. Shrek and the love of his life, Fiona, learn that lesson well as they discover who they really are and find that inner beauty is more important than outer appearances.

Lindsay O’Neil, who has been on stage many times as a professional Equity actor and singer makes her directorial debut here. She does a fine job of it especially with the timing. The pace moves along well. Musical director and conductor Daniel Michael Koch is not a newcomer by any means and he is also a composer. The orchestra delivers a lively and enjoyable performance.

There are many adults in this large cast. Kevin Bielmeier does the nearly impossible playing Shrek. He is scary when he wants to be, mostly to fairytale characters, but the audience loves him anyway. He is an ogre complete with green hands and head and funny looking nodules sticking out of the side of his head, which are most likely his ears. He speaks with a strong voice and has a monstrous growl; yet he manages to be consistently adorable at the same time. However, when he sings his solos, there’s nothing but true talent that shines through his impeccable vocals. Who could not love a voice like that?

Perfectly cast as Shrek’s sidekick, Teah Renzi plays Donkey with unfettered comic expression. She too has a wonderful voice. Emily Walsh as Fiona is a good match for Shrek with her gentle princess role with a distinct rough edge. One does have to wonder how Roger Grace can manage to stay on his knees for so long. He plays the very short (hence being on his knees), selfish, self-centered, power hungry Lord Farquaad who wants to marry Fiona. Playing the dragon is Fiona Bryson who doesn’t breathe fire, but delivers a fiery performance.

All of the fairytale characters perform well as does the ensemble. Lindsay T. Miller’s choreography works well as does the woodsy setting designed by RJ Bogues and Lindsay O’Neil with props by O’Neil and Lane Shoemaker.

There was a problem with sound and/or microphones on opening night, which meant the actors’ voices went in and out on occasion and levels of acting varied. However, overall, this is a fine performance and most entertaining. It’s not possible to leave the show not feeling good. It plays through Aug. 10. Box office: 203-748-6873.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: jgrochman@gmail.com.