Shrek the Musical

December 19 - January 3
Buskirk-Chumley Theater

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A FAMILY ACT
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Shrek a family show for everyone, including mother and son actors

By Joel Pierson H-T Theater columnist

In recent years, Broadway has been plundering Hollywood for new musicals, and it seemed like every other blockbuster was once available at Blockbuster.

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Diane Buzzell and Matthew Weidenbener

When I first heard about “Shrek the Musical,” I was worried that it would be another ambitious but overblown retread of something that worked well on film. Fortunately for you and Cardinal Stage Company (in that order), I was pleasantly surprised.

They’re bringing the musical to the Buskirk-Chumley Theater this week, and I’m pleased to say that even if you know the movie up, down and sideways, you’ll have plenty of surprises at the live show.

And before you dismiss it with, “I don’t have kids” and turn to the sports page, I’ll point out that the musical isn’t just for children. It’s for the child in everyone. There, doesn’t that sound lovely? A gift for your inner child for the holidays.

I say this to warm your heart and to take up the space I usually dedicate to describing the plot. Because you know the plot of “Shrek,” don’t you? Ogre’s swamp is overrun by banished fairytale characters. Obsequious donkey, princess in need of rescuing, sinister despot, romantically frustrated dragon. Yeah, you’re with me.

It’s a fun story, and while the acting of Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy drove the movie, the musical has a presence that you only get at a live show. You’re right there in the room with these characters, and they’re singing to you — songs from the film and new ones created for the stage show.

Mother and son Diane Buzzell and Matthew Weidenbener are both appearing in the show, she as the Fairy Godmother and he as Pinocchio. I caught up with the pair in between their rigorous rehearsal schedule and asked how it was going.

 “The rehearsal process is always fun,” Diane told me. “We both stay professional, with a lot of good laughs. Before I decided to be in ‘Shrek,’ I asked Matthew what his thoughts were. His response was an immediate, ‘Yes, you should do it!’”

“Acting with my mom is really a joy,” Matthew added. “I have only done shows with her when she has just been the choreographer, but now that she is choreographing and performing, it’s a whole different ball park. I am so incredibly proud of her for having the strength and courage to come back onto the stage after many years of not performing.”

Diane acknowledges the effort that goes into choreographing and performing in a show of this size. “I always knew musical theater was extremely challenging, but it’s much harder than I thought! It makes me appreciate what Matthew and all the other kids I have worked with over the years do even more. I have always enjoyed being involved in theater with Matthew, watching him grow as a performer and seeing his talent take shape, but to be on the stage with him will be a memory that will last forever.”

Matthew is equally supportive of his personal fairy godmother. “I always knew she could do it. How could I not be supportive of my number-one cheerleader, who’s been pushing me toward my dreams all my life? Even though she was very nervous at the thought of acting and singing while dancing, I knew she could do it.”

Matthew and Diane are part of a huge cast bringing this fun-filled story to the stage. Even if you’ve never seen any of the Shrek movies, you’ll be able to follow along just fine. So come on out and be a believer. You’ll be ogre-joyed that you did.