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Young Artists Ensemble‘s fall production of Shrek the Musical Jr. is one class act! Based on the DreamWorks movie and the Broadway musical this junior production takes the audience on a magical Adventure from Shrek’s swamp to the colorful Duloc to Princess Fiona’s dragon guarded tower and back again. And what a big, bright, beautiful show it is!
Playing at the Thousand Oaks Hillcrest Theater on the Hill through November 20, this show features some of the best work Young Artist Ensemble has put together in recent years. The set design by Young Artist Ensemble favorite Mark Andrew Reyes are both the charming and ingenious making use of oversized fairy-tale books as the majority of the set. Director Andrea Tate does a good job of making use of all the space in the blackbox theater. Erin Heulitt‘s costume design is equally clever, reminiscent of the Broadway production costumes and yet quite age appropriate.
As for the young stars of the show, all the leads are very talented and perfectly cast. Leading man Sabin Shrestha as Shrek has great local promise, terrific comedic timing especially with Rianny Vasquez‘ Donkey and commands the stage whenever he is present. Vazquez is is quite the hoot with heard great comedic timing, Big smile and laugh, and as realistic a performance as a talking donkey can get. Despite this role typically being played by an African American male, it was hard to imagine it being played by anyone else in this production. The other two leading ladies of the show, Lyda Jade Harland and Ally Vales, kept outdoing each other vocally throughout the show: two very talented and entertaining leading ladies as Fiona and Dragon respectively. Their big numbers were definite highlights of the show.
Other highlights included:
– the young and teenage Fiona actresses (Marissa Margolis and Abigail Maurer) who delighted with their takes on I Know It’s Today. [This reviewer had previously seen Margolis in Secret Garden and it remains true that she lightens up the stage with just her smile.]
– Nathaniel Mark as Lord Farquaad who was very entertaining in his short sequences. Unfortunately because of all the material cut from the original production of Shrek he was not able to shine quite as much as I believe he would’ve. No fault of his own so I hope that he’ll get a chance to truly shine in another production.
High props to all the cast of Young Artist Ensemble’s Shrek Jr. If you have time this weekend and next to see a show with the family and this might be just the one to see. You will surely laugh and you will surely be transported today big bright beautiful world away from all the hate, division and fear of our current world for a couple hours.
Disclaimer: I had my ticket comped for review purposes but all opinions are my own.