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Poster for Orpheus musical in Ottawa

There have been some remarkable musicals already this early in Ottawa’s theatre season. We had the remarkable Jonathan Larson biographical musical Tick Tick Boom kicking off for Orpheus in the studio theatre at Centrepointe and the clever, innovative Ordinary Days at GCTC. We are now into the Christmas season and the more traditional musical formula is upon us.

Shrek, the classic story of ogre gets girl, ogre loses girl, ogre gets girl wrapped up in a message of inclusion and be true to yourself comes to the Centrepointe theatre from the dedicated and talented community of Orpheus. Oops, I forgot the spoiler alert. Oh well, I doubt that there would be more than two percent of the public that isn’t already familiar with the original DreamWorks animated film of the same name.

The design elements are quite incredible. Tony Walker has designed the set and scenery with assistance from master carpenter and technical director Graham Galway that takes you dreamily from swamps to castles, courtyards and churches. Stephanie Williams creative prop design completes the fairy tale fantasy that lives on the stage from talking ginger bread men to Pinocchio’s expanding nose.

Amber Hood’s skillful lighting takes the audience through sunny happy days to starry moonlit nights while making sure the principles have their shining moments. Sandy Goldsmith’s costumes are appropriately out of this world.

Artistic director Jenn Donnelly somehow manages to provide order to this ragtag group of Disney outcasts while musical director Gabriel Leury keeps them all well tuned and Mary Hills choreography is some of the best seen on an Orpheus stage.

The performances are energetic and a tonne of fun. Justin Hills’ Shrek is a sensitive soul caught in a large intimidating misunderstood body. He shines brightest in the ballads that provide the subtext to his crude galumphing exterior. Vivian Melsness is the princess Fiona imprisoned in a tower for the early part of the play and later in her own body. Her angst about her true self and her feelings is well played and explored ….

The Dragon scenes are highlights of the show as performed by the Company of Ogre Achiever Players and supremely voiced by Jerusha Lewis. The one that captures dragon’s heart and also the audience favourite is Donkey played by Damien Broomes. He dances struts and wisecracks his way sharply through the play in the night’s funniest and most animated performance of the evening.

It is a testimony to the massive amount of volunteers that put Shrek together that it was able to be done so effectively. Minus the giant Broadway budgets Orpheus relies on a legion of dedicated volunteers innovative staging and considerable sweat equity. Despite so many dedicating their time without pay, this is still an expensive play to produce. It needs and deserves the packed houses it will get. It is fun, family entertainment. Take your kids, any kid you love or the kid in you to see it.

Reviewed by Jim Murchison.

Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig

Music by Jeanine Tesori

Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire

Production Team

Artistic Director                                            Jenn Donnelly

Musical Director                                          Gabe Leury

Choreographer                                           Mary Hills


JUSTIN HILLS                                            Shrek

DAMIEN BROOMES                                 Donkey

VIVIAN BURNS MELSNESS                   Princess Fiona

RÉJEAN DINELLE-MAYER                     Lord Farquaad

JAMIE RICE                                                Pinocchio

MEAGAN CHAPIN                                     Gingy/Sugarplum Fairy

JERUSHA LEWIS                                      Dragon/Bo Peep

ALISON CACHERO                                              Young Shrek/Knave of Hearts

MICHELLE SANGALLI                              Young Fiona/Wee Willie Winkie

BRIETTA HOWARD                                               Teen Fiona/Ugly Duckling

DONNA ST. JEAN                                      Mama Ogre/Mother Goose

PAUL MELSNESS                                     Papa Ogre/Straw

JARED LANGDON                                    Sticks

RICK BURK                                                Bricks

JIM TANNER                                                           Papa Bear

KELLY FUOCO                                           Mama Bear

VANESSA MONTEIRO                             Baby Bear

MARCUS WINCHESTER                         Guard Captain

JOHN LECLAIRE                                       Big Bad Wolf/Bishop

TANYA GUIMOND                                      Shoemaker’s Elf

LAURA BURK                                             Fairy Godmother

ROXANE DELISLE                                               Wicked Witch

BEBE BRUNJES                                       Pied Piper

MORGAN COUGHLAN                             Mad Hatter

BENNETT LANGDON                               Peter Pan

HAILEY QUIQUERO                                 John Darling

LUC CORMIER                                          Tin Soldier

MÉLANIE EVANS                                      Marionette

COURTNEY DINELLE-MAYER              Rat Dancer

Music by Jeanine Tesori

Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire

Reviewed  by Jim Murchison. Photo courtesy of the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society