Broadway’s ‘Shrek the Musical’ to make its Cincinnati debut

Expect a family-friendly audience-pleaser.

The stage musical version of the hit 2001 film “Shrek” ran for just over one year on Broadway and was nominated for eight Tony Awards, winning one for costume design. Although the Broadway “Shrek” ultimately went on tour, it also granted rights to independent companies.

As a result, our own Cincinnati Music Theatre is debuting “Shrek the Musical” locally in the Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff Center this weekend.

“Companies are encouraged to tailor things to make it more local,” said Lizanne Ingram, who’s directing the show. “When an L.A. (Los Angeles) company bought it, during the scene where Shrek is lost in the woods, there’s a reference to ‘passing Kirstie Alley’s house.’ We mention Drew Lachey in ours. It’s just a family-friendly audience-pleaser that has a lot of appeal.”

Reviews for the Broadway “Shrek” ranged from positive to mixed. Ingram attributed this to the age-old conflict between aesthetic-minded critics and entertainments that people actually wanted to see.

“New York critics seem to favor things that are edgier, more in-your-face,” she said. “’Shrek’ is a lot lighter. Some just didn’t enjoy the transition from film to stage. It’s not a concern for us. There have been a lot of shows with limited runs that did very well in other venues.”

Ingram said the musical follows the story of the film closely, that of a flatulent, embittered ogre named Shrek whose swamp is overrun by fairy-tale creatures, banished by the evil Lord Farquaad. Shrek travels to see Farquaad to see about getting his swamp back (but to get the fairy-tale creatures a home, too, of course), picking up the notoriously endearing/annoying Donkey and the cursed Princess Fiona along the way. The only major deviation, said Ingram, is in the treatment of Lord Farquaad.

“In the movie, you never really understand why Farquaad is such an egomaniac, why he hates fairy-tale creatures so much,” she said. “In the musical, you get some funny, entertaining backstory about him, where he came from and why it matters.”

Visually, Ingram said the production utilizes a lot of visual projection to make the audience feel they are in the middle of the fantastical settings.

“It really takes you to places like the dragon’s lair and the lake of molten lava in a way you couldn’t with a canvas backdrop,” she said.

CMT is one of the few community theatre companies that can produce large-scale, Broadway-like shows.

“We only put on two shows a year and we don’t have our own space. A lot of community theaters have their own stage, which creates opportunities as well as limitations. The Jarson-Kaplan Theatre has a slide floor, which is efficient and visually interesting. Over 100 people auditioned for this show and we’re all volunteers.”

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How to go

What: “Shrek the Musical”

Where: Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati

When: Opens May 12 and ends its run May 20; show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $20-$24

More info: 513-621-2787 or

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