Review: TownSquare Players' 'Shrek' brings fairy-tale magic to Woodstock stage

Based on the 1990 book by William Steig and the smash hit 2001 DreamWorks animated film of the same name, “Shrek: The Musical” features music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire.

The story follows the adventures of an ogre who, along with a talking donkey, rescues a damsel in distress for an evil lord looking to marry a princess so he can become king. It is filled with humor, compelling music and exuberant dance – all complete with an unexpected happy ending.

For the TownSquare Players production, now playing at the Woodstock Opera House, Roger Zawacki has directed a masterpiece that will entertain both children and adults. Zawacki’s direction is perfectly complimented by impressive vocal direction by Sue Falbo, spirited choreography by Angie Kells and Carson Brandenburg and striking musical direction by Rosemarie Aiello.

From the moment the audience enters the theater, they are taken into the fairy-tale world with awe-inspiring trees reaching into the house. These set pieces were expertly crafted by hand by set construction engineer Brent White, who truly has outdone himself. Subtle forest music plays in the background, further setting the scene.

Colin May stars in the title role. He has a dynamic voice that fills the theater in a spectacular performance all the way around.

The audience favorites clearly were Brandon Lewis, as Donkey, and Joel Bennett, as the diminutive statured Lord Farquaad, and rightfully so. Bennett is a crafty theater veteran who knows how to work an audience into a laughing frenzy, and Lewis pours never-tiring electric energy into his performance .

Three actresses play Shrek’s love interest Fiona: Raina Thiegs as Young Fiona, Lily Muse as Teen Fiona and Kelsey Rosenorn as Adult Fiona. Thiegs makes the most of her limited stage time with a fully rounded character and a spectacular singing voice that rivals most professional working adult actors.

Rosenorm has the most stage time of the three actresses and uses it well. She aptly conveys the emotional changes of a woman in peril longing for love, then finding the man of her dreams in the most unusual of places.

In a cast filled with impressive vocal talents, it is Catherine Yore, as the Dragon, who provides the breakthrough performance of the show. Yore’s voice is a thing of beauty – captivating, exciting, expressive and a joy to listen to.

Not to be outdone, the ensemble fills the stage with vigor and fine fairy-tale characterizations. Among the standouts are Jessica Dawson, as the Gingerbread Man, and Michael Neumann, as Pinocchio.

Rounding out the talented ensemble are Sydney Adkins, Barry Blodgett, Aaron Gomez, Amanda Haugk, Sylvia Hensley, Ilene Si Kaye, Geoffrey Lindow, Jacob Lopez, Erin O’Brien, Emerich Parpart, Kenzie Parry, Christopher Plotts, Jordan Rakittke, Jesse Thielsen, Kevin Wright and Amy Yore.

The skilled orchestra features Barb Klein, Carolyn Awe, Karen Stein, Sue Childress Briand Anderson, Kristin Lundine-Miller, Margaret Miller, Joe Sharin, Jerry Simandi, Greg Conrad, John Gogoleski, David Childress and Dave Byers.

Appealing to children of all ages, TownSquare Player’s “Shrek” is a spectacular production, well worth the price of admission.

• Rikki Lee Travolta has starred in, directed and choreographed productions throughout the country, including many in McHenry County. He has written two novels and a memoir. He now hosts a weekly musical theater radio program called “It’s Showtime with Rikki Lee” on 101.5 FM, or streaming and through podcasts on His website is


WHEN: Through Nov. 19

WHERE: Woodstock Opera House, 121 W. Van Buren St., Woodstock

COST & INFO: A fairy-tale adventure presented by TownSquare Players based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animation film. Schedule: 8 p.m. Nov. 10-11, 17-18; 2 p.m. Nov. 11-12, 18-19. Tickets: $25 A Seating, $20 B Seating, $15 C Seating. Tickets and information: 815-338-5300 or

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