Clifford makes his stage debut this Saturday as Lord Farquaad’s trusty steed in the Community Theatre of Howell’s version of, “Shrek the Musical.”
This wasn’t my idea, despite the fact that I fell in love with the movie. Hard. I was so in love with, “Shrek,” in fact, that I saw it on the big screen no less than six times.
That’s excessive, even for me.
I also bought the soundtrack and played it in my car until I wore it out.
When my friend, director Ann O’Reilly, first contacted me asking if Clifford could step in as Farquaad’s horse, I didn’t hesitate to jump at it. But my first reaction to the idea of a musical play was to wonder how it could ever measure up to the dynamic genius of the film. The answer, as with most good plays, is that it doesn’t try. It has the same characters, or some variation of them, the same story, and much of the same dialogue. The music is different. The acting and dancing and special effects all fall upon the mercy of whatever company is producing the effort.
But Howell is doing it right. Mark Mazzullo’s Shrek is a giant, green, bumbling behemoth. Fiona, played by Annelise Hoshal is a flaming-haired goofball with a mean set of tap shoes. Kevin Rogers’ Donkey has the comic timing demanded of someone dressed in a suit with floppy ears. The dancing, the music, the colors, the lights! With the flash and glitter of the headdress of the formidable Dragon, the mighty Melinda Towns has a voice that could rival Adele. And as Lord Farquaad, performing the entire two hours on his knees as a tiny little man who “overcompensates”, Chris Salter is stealing the show.
Clifford has attended two rehearsals and, as I expected, is reveling in the glamour and attention. His role is mercifully short — he is to carry Farquaad down the aisle between the seats, deposit him on the stage, wait while he proposes to Fiona, and then deliver him back up the next aisle and out the back doors.
One of the most impressive things about Chris is that he is not a rider, but he is making it work. “Cliffy, come to Daddy,” he croons, as Clifford sidles a step away from him. I realize this is one of the great things I miss most about live theatre — the quick thinking, the ability to improvise during the inevitable unexpected moments.
Clifford is handling everything just fine, despite Farquaad’s struggle to negotiate with the fake legs. The hardest part for me will be getting through it with a straight face.