Northern Colorado’s dinner playhouse has a full house for first time since pandemic started

Based on the DreamWorks film and the book by William Steig, Shrek The Musical is, you know, the one with the green ogre, the talking donkey and a whole bunch of other fairy-tale characters. When Peter Pan, the three little bears and Humpty Dumpty et al get kicked out of their homes by Lord Farquaad (Ethan Lee Knowles), they are transplanted to the swamp where Shrek (Scott Hurst, Jr.) lives. None too happy about sharing his home with a bunch of outcasts, Shrek sets out to speak to Lord Farquaad. Upon meeting him, an agreement is struck wherein Shrek will rescue Princess Fiona (Kelly Maur) and bring her to marry the Lord so he may become king and Shrek will get his swamp back.

Directed and choreographed by Piper Lindsay Arpan and played out on the stage at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, Shrek boasts a large cast with booming voices. Standing out for her bold, unique voice is newcomer to the playhouse, Sophia Ruiz as the fire-breathing dragon Shrek must get past to reach the princess. Another strong voice is Hurst as Shrek — an excellent choice to play the bashful, misunderstood ogre who is at times sad and shy, at times scary and formidable. He carries a lovely Scottish accent throughout his speaking and singing parts beautifully. His voice is so big, in fact, that for the song “I Think I Got You Beat,” sung in a round along with Maur, it was often difficult to hear her part in it.
Offering lots of laughs are Lord Farquaad and Donkey (Oscar Whitney, Jr.) — Farquaad for his tongue-and-cheek jabs at his own minuscule stature and Donkey for his fresh, honest take at love and life.

As Shrek begrudgingly agrees to let Donkey accompany him on his journey to free Princess Fiona, we watch as an unlikely friendship is made. Moving throughout a forest made alive with moving trees, singing birds and dancing mice, the two first find Lord Farquaad at his multilevel castle. We see the third intricate set when the pair find Princess Fiona in the tower she’s been trapped in for 20 years.

Having never seen the film version, I had no expectations going into this musical. I was pleasantly surprised by the wildly imaginative and laugh-out-loud story of the green ogre and his unexpected journey to love. Costumes for the fairy-tale characters were creative and fun, with one actor each playing the three bears and the three little pigs with puppets on each of their hands. The dragon costume was the most elaborate and impressive, with three players responsible for its movement around the stage.

For this show, Candlelight had a full house for the first time since pandemic restrictions have been lifted. Several kids of all ages were in attendance, eager for the chance to pose for pictures with the various characters as they served dinner. Appropriate for all ages, the musical has a subtle humor as it pokes fun at several stereotypes leaving adult audience members laughing while simultaneously rolling their eyes.

I’m kind of happy I hadn’t seen the original movie of Shrek, since it allowed me to be surprised and engaged by this often silly, somewhat odd story. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, you’re sure to be entertained by the skilled actors and beautiful voices of the cast in this unique musical.