Review: Cardinal Music’s Shrek The Musical Is A Big Bright Beautiful World

Cardinal Music Productions explodes its 2020 season with a blockbuster of happiness known far and wide as Shrek the Musical, the Tony Award-winning fairy tale adventure based on DreamWorks’ Oscar-winning animated movie of the same name. It is playing now at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High, before moving to Kingsville’s Migration Hall, and starts right off the bat with the snappy, ultimately happy song about it being A Big Bright Beautiful World.

Cast dancing Shrek The Musical by Cardinal Music Productions

Cast members dancing during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. From left Darien Pare as Pinocchio, Melissa Mills as The Wicked Witch, Ava Bourdeau (back) as Baby Bear, Emma Osley as Humpty Dumpty, Cheyenne Gauthier as Mama Bear, Spencer Hanson (back) as Pied Piper and Greg George as Big Bad Wolf. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

While there is no shortage of songs sung sweetly and a stage full of animated dancers, admittedly, there are, as there should be, trials and tribulations for everyone’s favourite ogre, a role demanding the incredible singing ability of the legendary Joe Cardinal.

Joe Cardinal as Shrek

Joe Cardinal as Shrek singing during rehearsal in Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Shrek, it turns out is very much a stay-at-home guy preferring to be left alone to hunker down and build a ten-foot wall around his swampy lair. Of course, such walls will need to relocate a few uninvited guests – all of them childhood favourite characters like Peter Pan, Little Red Riding Hood and so many more – so before he can say, in his thick brogue Scottish accent, let the construction begin, he turns mercenary soldier of sorts.

Julie Walton and Briannah Deschine in Cardinal Music's Shrek The Musical

Julie Walton as Peter Pan and Briannah Deschaine as Little Red Riding Hood dancing during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Darien Pare and Regan White

Darien Pare as Pinocchio and Regan White as Ginger Bread Man and Sugar Plum Fairy performing during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

In return for emptying the swamp of the fairy tale characters banished there by the evil and petulant Lord Farquaad, played with amusing distrust by Drew Beaudoin, who spends most of the play on his knees, which alone is something to see, that and the faces of his trusted foot soldiers who, well, keep an eye on them and watch their facial expressions as Farquaad talks.

Drew Beaudoin as Lord Duloc in Shrek The Musical by Cardinal Music Productions

Drew Beaudoin performing as Lord Farquaad (centre) surrounded by Duloc performers and soldiers during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Shrek’s task, which he accepts, is to rescue Princess Fiona. Farquaad has locked her in a tower. She lives waiting for her prince as a beautiful princess by day but by night, under a Farquaad spell, is turned into an ogre.

It is a long wait, decades long, and could last longer but Farquaad, to be king, seen as how he has no royal blood, or fortitude, must marry a princess and, as luck has it, he has one in storage, so to speak, and kept away from easy access by boiling hot lava surrounding a delapidated tower.

What is most engaging are the three actors who wear the green dress of the princess at different stages of her incarceration, including the most charming of all Koen Kavanaugh, who warms the hearts of the audience as Little Fiona, is nothing if not a bona fide show stopper with a voice so angelic it adds an unprecedented sparkle to a most gratifying evening.

Koen Kavanaugh as Little Fiona in Shrek The Musical by Cardinal Music Productions

Koen Kavanaugh as Little Fiona singing during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

She tells Eyes on Windsor of the enjoyment of this her third stage role and explains why her voice is so precious. At age nine, she has been working on it with a vocal coach for five years. Her hard work and effort really shows in a show with 25 other equally phenomenal actors.

Alicia Bray as Teen Fiona

Alicia Bray as Teen Fiona singing during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Two others play Fiona, Alica Bray as Teen Fiona and Nina Fasullo in the lead role of all grown up Fiona who performs so superbly in a number of songs including Act II’s first musical number, Morning Person. It all starts when the Pied Piper, a part Spencer Hanson performs with due empathy, complains the rats won’t follow him. The rats, Regan White, Darien Paré, Breannah Deschaine, Jessie Gurniak, Emma Osley and Jen Gurniak, however, seem well able to follow the Piper in lively backup to Fiona’s Morning Person.

Nina Fasullo as Fiona dancing with cast members in the role of rats

Nina Fasullo as Fiona dancing with rats played by Regan White, Darien Paré, Breannah Deschaine, Jessie Gurniak, Emma Osley and Jen Gurniak during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Spencer Hanson and Nina Fasullo

Spencer Hanson as Pied Piper and Nina Fasullo as Fiona performing during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Then all three-princesses triumph in a number, I Know Its Today, showcasing how well they collectively sing in nothing less than perfect harmony. Director and Producer Joe Cardinal has proven his own magical powers in selecting such well-matched singing partners, not only the Fionas, but the whole cast.

Koen Kavanaugh, Nina Fasullo and Alicia Bray as Fiona in Shrek The Musical

Koen Kavanaugh as Little Fiona, Nina Fasullo as Fiona, and Alicia Bray as Teen Fiona singing during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Mind you, as a singer himself, he knows a thing or two about musicals. In the lead role of Shrek, he adds both the expected grumpiness of the character but brings out a compassionate side which has him, after some reluctance, allowing a frenetic Donkey, to join him on his mission as his kind and kinetically charged sidekick.

Aaron Bergeron as Donkey and Joe Cardinal as Shrek

Aaron Bergeron as Donkey and Joe Cardinal as Shrek performing during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Aaron Bergeron takes on the Donkey role and quickly builds it into a considerable source of humour as the play moves along. Pace is important in a musical and Cardinal has certainly set a rapid one but sometimes it is interrupted with the aura of an outstanding character. This is quite evident in the sophistication Natasha Hanna brings to her role as the Dragon.

Natasha Hanna in Shrek The Musical by Cardinal Music Productions

Natasha Hanna (centre) as Dragon performing during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

She plays a key part in banishing Farquaad, which in the land of Duloc is nothing less than community service. Her costume spectacularly befits her character and, like all others in the musical, is a co-operative effort of Cardinal and Greg George. George also appears, like many of the actors in a number of roles. In his case as the Big Bad Wolf, Thelonius and as a Knight and later a Guard.

Greg George in Cardinal Music Productions Shrek The Musical

Greg George (centre) as Big Bad Wolf dancing during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Another shining star in the production has to be choreographer Nina Fasullo, who also plays Fiona. She has exceptionally plotted out routines that have her characters swaying with the action and moving effortlessly along well-trodden paths across the stage.

Duloc Performers Shrek The Musical Cardinal Music Productions

Cast members as Deloc Performers dancing during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Cardinal has added an unusual touch by not having an actual set. Instead, scenes are projected behind the action and change as the scenes change. This removes the need to move props around the set and enhances the speed of the musical.

Brandon Presley in Cardinal Music's Shrek The Musical

Brandon Presley in the role of Bishop standing in front of a projected church cathedral set during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

As the play ends, but before the actors return to their dressing rooms, they regroup and perform a rousing rendition of I’m A Believer which, with 26 strong voices, sends the audience home on a spirited high note capping a most wonderful night of entertainment.

Cast members of Cardinal Music Productions Shrek The Musical

Cast members singing I’m A Believer during rehearsal of Cardinal Music Productions’ presentation of Shrek The Musical at the Green Room Theatre inside E.J. Lajeunesse High School in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, February 6, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Remaining performances of Shrek the Musical will be performed on February 14, 15 & 16 at the Green Room Theatre, E.J. Lajeunesse High School, 600 E.C. Row W. General admission tickets are $25 with Friday and Saturday’s performances at 8pm and Sunday matinees at 2pm.

The following weekend the production will move to Kingsville’s Migration Hall for one weekend only on February 21, 22 & 23.

For more information visit the Eyes On Windsor Event Listing for Shrek The Musical Presented by Cardinal Music Productions.

Robert Tuomi

Article by Robert Tuomi

For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.