Summer in Sacramento means sweltering afternoon heat, and lavish Broadway-style musicals staged by the Music Circus, now in its 69th year.
The first show of the season is “Shrek the Musical.” The movie version of “Shrek” was a hit in 2001, and the Broadway version thrived a few years later. Chances are you know the story, but for the uninitiated, this is a comedy that stands fairy tale traditions on their head. The big, green ogre is actually the unsung hero of the show, despite his scary looks and gruff demeanor. And the ogre has a sidekick — a talking donkey, who literally drops into an early scene.
“Shrek,” a fantasy with fairy tale characters, is very much a costume show — a parade of loud colors and towering wigs. I was particularly taken with the big, pink dragon — so large and long it required four black-clad puppeteers to maneuver.
The score hopscotches through many musical styles, including the blues.
André Jordan play the motormouth donkey, and gee, it must get hot doing all that prancing and preening in a head-to-toe costume. Actor Jacob Keith Watson, as the ogre, has clearly absorbed Kermit the Frog’s lesson that “It’s not easy being green.” Kristen Beth Williams is beautiful and commanding as Princess Fiona. All three of these actors are at the Music Circus for the first time.
A final word to grownups: While “Shrek” is for kids, it also runs 2.5 hours, so if you’re going to bring a 4-year-old, you might want to consider an afternoon matinee. Though carrying a sleeping preschooler back to the car after an evening show can also be a rewarding parental experience.
The Broadway at Music Circus production of “Shrek” continues at the Wells Fargo Pavilion in Sacramento through June 16.