Local theatre company performs popular Broadway show
By Cheryl Minns, Senior Columnist
Align Entertainment kicks off its first show of the new year with the Broadway hit Shrek The Musical at Michael J. Fox Theatre in Burnaby. Based on the DreamWorks animated film, the musical follows everyone’s favourite ogre Shrek (Charlie Deagnon), his pal Donkey (Daniel Curalli), Princess Fiona (Maddie Livland), and Lord Farquaad (Stuart Barkley, a Douglas College graduate) as they perform catchy musical numbers, go on epic quests, and discover who they’re meant to be.
Shrek The Musical begins with seven-year-old Shrek (Owen Scott) and seven-year-old Princess Fiona (Ava Gil) being sent away by their families to an unknown future—including a secluded swamp for Shrek and a dragon-guarded tower for Princess Fiona. Many years later, a crowd of fairy-tale creatures take up residence in the swamp, so adult Shrek goes to find Lord Farquaad to make him remove the creatures. Along the way he meets Donkey, a lonely talking donkey in need of a friend. Lord Farquaad makes a deal with Shrek that if the ogre can rescue Princess Fiona from the tower for him, he’ll give Shrek the deed to the swamp. Shrek rescues Princess Fiona, but she isn’t the typical damsel in distress and has more in common with Shrek than meets the eye.
There were brightly coloured and elaborate set designs for Shrek’s swamp, Princess Fiona’s tower, Lord Farquaad’s castle, a variety of forests, and more. The stage is spacious enough for large choreographed dance numbers such as “Morning Person”: early-riser Princess Fiona meets the Pied Piper (Thomas Chan) and a bunch of tap dancers with plush rats on their tap shoes, and they all dance around the stage. There are also several numbers where all of the fairy tale creatures perform together, and the final numbers feature the entire cast. When the show requires characters to move around even more, they venture out into the aisles—immersing audience members in the performance.
Some of the musical numbers will be familiar to fans of the film, such as “What’s Up Duloc?”—an extended version of the film’s “Welcome to Duloc”—and closing number, The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer.” The show also introduces new character backstories through songs, such as “Big Bright Beautiful World” for Shrek, “I Know it’s Today” for Princess Fiona, and the “Ballad of Farquaad” for Lord Farquaad.
Curalli, a local actor and instructor at Place des Arts in Coquitlam, joined Align Entertainment as Rooster in the company’s production of Annie in February 2019. After having a great experience with the team, he auditioned for Shrek The Musical and landed the role of his favourite character, Donkey.
“He’s such a loveable little ball of energy, and he does and says such wild things, so it is really fun to play,” he said to the Other Press. “The characters from the film are so iconic now, so you do have to walk a fine line of trying to pay homage to the original characters so that the audience gets what they expect, but also make the character your own, because it is a slightly different story.”
Portraying Donkey is the first time Curalli has played an animal on stage, which he found requires a different style of acting from the usual human roles.
“The physicality is what made this role different from a lot of others,” he said. “As a tall actor, I didn’t want to stand taller than Shrek, so I had to bend my knees, but the constant knee bend added something to the way Donkey moved around. It mimicked the kind of hind legs you would see on a donkey. I also knew that I wouldn’t have any hands to speak of, so everything had to be done without fingers.”
Shrek The Musical was Align Entertainment’s first show in 2014. The company decided to return to the classic to celebrate its tenth show, which has drawn in crowds for multiple sold-out shows this month.
“It’s a great story,” Curalli said. “The clever jokes that are all over the place, the wonderful story of brotherhood between Donkey and Shrek, and the timeless message of just being yourself and people loving you for who you are.”
Align Entertainment’s next production will be in September 2020. It is an original show called Revue-sical The Musical, and it will feature a compilation of the company’s previous shows—such as Legally Blonde The Musical and The Addams Family Musical Comedy. Next February, the company will present Seussical The Musical.