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THEATER REVIEW: “Shrek” soars at Civic Theatre

It’s a pity Shrek and Kermit the frog never met. They both know what it’s like being green ... and they’re equally charming, color notwithstanding.

Kermit isn’t in town, but that fearsomely lovable ogre is back – with his friend Donkey, the lovely princess Fiona and all their fairy-tale friends – in the touring production of “Shrek,” playing through Sunday at Civic Theatre.

This show has it all: charming and affecting characters, fabulous costumes, a whiz-bang production design and clever puppetry. Add David Lindsay-Abaire’s book appealing to the kid in all of us and Jeanine Tesori’s bouncy music, and you’ve got a show for everybody.

You recall the story: Shrek (Eric Petersen) lives by himself in a swamp (“but it’s mine”), where he is lonely but relatively resigned to his fate. His parents warned him when they tossed him out of the house at 7 that “we’re ugly, son, which means that life is harder” and warned him to “watch out for men with pitchforks.”

One day an eviction notice from runty little Lord Farquaad (David F. M. Vaughn) pushes Shrek to make the trek to the castle to straighten out the prince. Shrek is accompanied (against his will) by Donkey (a hilarious Alan Mingo, Jr.), claiming “I’m like a GPS with fur” – a friend Shrek didn’t know he needed and certainly doesn’t want.

Together, this pair will rescue Princess Fiona from that drafty old tower, she and Shrek will fall in love, Shrek will decide Donkey really is his friend and a rollicking good time will be had by all, including the audience.

The show’s roots are in William Steig’s children’s book and the first “Shrek” film in 2001. Like them, this show is clever sendup of the mythos of the fairy tale genre, featuring many of those old favorites – Pinocchio, the big bad wolf, the three pigs, the wicked witch, to name a few.

This version adds a boatload of corny lines and too many burp and fart jokes for my taste, but overall it’s a lovely show with a delightful, even intelligent script.

It’s also a technical wonder, especially the dragon – a huge pink puppet which takes four men to manipulate. With a long tail and movable, nay flappable wings, she is adorable – and has big green eyes which she bats quite fetchingly.

And watch for the Pied Piper segment. Where else will you see a chorus line of mice?

Artistically it’s not bad either. Petersen is utterly convincing as the green monster who finds love after all. Mingo’s Donkey is a winner and I swear he is channeling Eddie Murphy – he even looks like Murphy.

Denise’s Fiona is lovely to look at and has a beautiful voice as well. Though Denise is the understudy, it’s difficult to imagine this role being performed any better.

Need an escape from the insistent talk about deficits and Congress and weird weather and the like? Check out “Shrek.” But hurry – it closes Sunday.

The details

“Shrek” plays through Sunday, July 10, at San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., Downtown.

Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm.

For tickets call (619) 570-1100 or Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.