Ogres and lawyers at Theatre Under the Stars

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Playing this year at Stanley Park are two comedies adapted from the big screen featuring original scores, stories of overcoming adversity, and plenty of laughs. Shrek: The Musical features the lovable ogre and all his fairytale friends, and Legally Blonde: The Musical returns for a second year in all its peppy, pink glory.

Perhaps it’s the extra year of performance that the show has under its belt, or maybe it is the stronger writing, but Legally Blonde was a much more polished production. Jocelyn Gauthier was stunning as Elle, Peter Cumins complemented her well as Warner, and Cathy Wilmot was an audience favourite as Paulette.

Elle Woods proves that success is the best form of revenge as she follows her ex-boyfriend Warner to Harvard to show him that she can be the serious girl he needs. She ends up surprising herself and meeting some new friends in the process. Catchy songs such as “Gay or European,” “Omigod You Guys,” and “Positive,” were stuck in my head for days after seeing the show, and I was impressed by the talented cast. There were even two dogs in the show: Elle’s Bruiser and Paulette’s Rufus.

Elle’s Greek Chorus of girls from her Delta Nu sorority were also a highlight of the show along with the “Whipped Into Shape” scene with Brooke Wyndham and her aerobics class. The famous Bend and Snap move that Elle teaches Paulette also gets its own song. The show flew by with witty dialogue and intuitive songs that moved the story along.

Shrek is also a highly entertaining show, but even with the jokes and pop culture references that only adults understand, the show really felt geared towards a younger audience. Matt Palmer was wonderful as the bumbling Scottish ogre, and Ken Overbey stole the show as the gregarious, well-meaning Donkey. Lord Farquaad (Victor Hunter) also got plenty of laughs as he spent most of the show walking on his knees in a special costume that made it look like he had very short legs. Princess Fiona (Lindsay Warnock) complemented Shrek very well and they had great chemistry in their duet “I Think I Got You Beat” where they try to impress each other with their terrible childhoods.

Set within a storybook theme, a giant book is wheeled on stage and we first see Shrek and Fiona pop out of the pages as children. Each scene is introduced by a fairy opening the book to a different page, and there is narration in between the scenes as well. I found the narration to be a bit distracting, and it actually pulled me out of the story. I would have preferred to just watch the action without having the commentary.

Everyone’s favourite fairytale characters can be seen in this production such as the Gingy, Pinocchio, the three pigs, the three blind mice, and the Big Bad Wolf. One of the stronger songs was “Freak Flag” as the creatures sing about being yourself and being proud of who you are.

The musical sticks to the story of the film, and although all the songs are original, I liked that they included “I’m a Believer” as the extra song after curtain call. I think I would have enjoyed the show more of the rest of the songs were as well written as this one, and if the cast displayed the same level of energy and enthusiasm as they did on “I’m a Believer.” If you’re a fan of Shrek, the musical won’t disappoint, but for the adults, I would recommend Legally Blonde.

Shrek: The Musical and Legally Blonde: The Musical are presented by Theatre Under the Stars from July 11 to August 23 at Malkin Bowl. For more information, visit tuts.ca.

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