Review of “Shrek the Musical” in San Diego

Seeing a theater full of green-ear fitted children is not a common site unless you're at Universal Studios.  However, this is precisely what I saw among  the young audience at opening night of “Shrek the Musical.” 

The recommended viewing age for this play is six years old.  I give them 30 minutes, forty, tops,  I thought.  But, instead of witnessing a mass exodus of parents with bored tots in toe after the first hour of the 2 hour and 30 minute screen-to-stage production of Shrek,  quite the opposite occurred!

In no time, little girls with glistening crowns perched on their heads and matching glittery shoes sat in the audience completely mesmerized, as was I, by the larger-than-life Broadway-style sets, a wooden-like talking boy-puppet with a growing nose, and the melodious green ogre providing tunes and toots to everyone's delight.

“Shrek the Musical” is based on the book by William Steig and the well-known DreamWorks Animation children's' film, and cleverly adapted for the stage by DreamWorks Theatricals.  In this condensed version, however, we learn a bit more about the main characters; Shrek was dispatched from home promptly by his ogre parents at age seven, while Princess Fiona was confined to the tower at about the same age.


Mr. and Mrs. Eric Peterson a.k.a. Shrek in the muscial. Photo by S. Valle

Keeping in mind this is a children's play, “Shrek The Musical” sputters a bit on takeoff — perhaps in an attempt to allow the wee ones to catch up with the fast-talking Donkey (Alan Mingo Jr.), and his new-found green friend.


Alan Mingo Jr. is Donkey in “Shrek the Musical.” Photo by S. Valle

After investing our emotions in the freakish trio during the first half of the show, our reward is Act II.

“Morning Person” is Fiona's claim to fame. It's a caffeinated, cheerful number that includes a nod to the cartoon-on-Broadway pioneer, Disney.  From here, Shrek becomes a huge spectacle of lights, songs, moving floors and cutting edge life-like puppets that we previously thought could only be seen in movies.

Yes, the gingerbread man speaks, and the fate of the unsuspecting song bird that crosses Fiona's path remains, well, explosive. The fire-breathing lady Dragon guarding Fiona's tower is 17 feet high with an equally big voice provided by Carrie Compere (who incidentally does quadruple time in four roles!).  And the vertically-challenged Lord Farquaad, played by David F. M. Vaughn on his heavily-padded knees, manages to impress us with legs as long as a Rocket's in a Radio City Music Hall-worthy number.

But the man of the two-and-a-half-hour extravaganza is Eric Petersen.  He embodies the green monster with ease, including the 45 pound costume he lugs around effortlessly on stage thanks to the ice-bags that keep him cool under the glued-on lime-green mask.  And Haven Burton as Fiona is just plain fun.  Don't let her petite frame fool you, though.  She can pass gas and burp with the best of them and still make it seem feminine.


Haven Burton (middle) plays Princess Fiona on “Shrek the Musical” with Suzette Valle and Chad Gilbert of BroadwaySD. Photo by S. Valle

“Shrek” is the perfect summer (did I say affordable?) family musical. The timeless lessons of tolerance, passing judgment too quickly, and making ugly acceptable are offered ready-to-serve for kids to easily ingest the play's message. 

In fact, the magic and majesty of this play were not lost on a left coast dweller like me; there was little that kept me from thinking I was going to boogie right out onto Times Square at the end of “I'm a Believer!”

With impressive Broadway musical numbers, irreverent dialogue, a thunderous live orchestra,  vibrant fairy-tale costumes, and enough dazzling energy on stage to power the kingdom of Duloc, the rest of the misfits that make up the cast of this wonderful play will no doubt have you and your pint-sized theater-goers feeling happily for-a-while after.

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Playing July 5 – 10, 2011

Remember to check out the special $75 family 4-pack ticket offer just for you!

Civic Theatre Ticket Office: 1100 Third Avenue (619) 570-1100; Monday – Friday, 10AM – 6PM

Ticketmaster (800) 982-2787 Ticket prices vary. For current prices, please visit                              

San Diego Civic Theatre, 3rd and B Street, Downtown San Diego

Show Times:

Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Friday at 8 p.m.

Saturday at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Sunday at 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.


I was given complimentary tickets to review “Shrek the Musical” on opening night. All the opinions expressed here are mine.


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