Shrek Jr. at St. Robert

I guess you could call it a gas contest, but it has nothing to do with what you put in your car or the fuel you use for your gas stove or the water heater.

Instead it’s the kind of gas that a body can generate and it plays a key part, and a very funny one, in the stunning production of the musical “Shrek Jr.” that made its debut over the weekend at St. Robert School in Shorewood.

Under the masterful direction of Karl Miller and music direction by Valerie Miller, this cast of thousands delivered a heartfelt and highly entertaining performance. Plus, for me, there was the added bonus of seeing two friends in the cast.

One was Joe Schlise, a sixth grader and neighbor who I knew was in the play. He was making his theatrical debut and nearly brought the house down with his over-the-top Bishop who was trying to marry the funniest couple you ever saw.

The other friend was Agrim Cincotta, a sixth grader who I was surprised to see. He was a delightful and very playful baby bear, among those who helped to carry the story along.

The story of Shrek is very well known and the cast lived up to the tale.

Shrek (Jimmy Fox) is an ogre who falls in love with Princess Fiona (Fiona Gallagher).

But, of course, no princess worth her crown would ever marry an ogre, especially one that’s green and has horns growing out of his head. She travels to the Village of Duloc to marry the little Lord Farquaard (an hilarious David Sanders).  Poor Shrek is about to have his heart broken, but at the urging of his best friend, the donkey (the soulful and earnest Sam Fox) Shrek perseveres and eventually wins the heart and hand of his true love.

But, back to that gas thing.

Everybody knows that a surplus of gas in your body has two ways to escape. One is – well we don’t have to mention it – but you know what I mean. The other is through the burp.

While singing “I Think I Got You Beat” Shrek and Fiona have a formidable contest to see who can deliver the loudest of the two types of gas explosion. Each escape seems longer and louder than the one that came before it and the whole thing absolutely brought the house down.

I saw people with tears in their eyes from laughing so hard.

Carl Miller is one of the brightest and most creative choreographers in Milwaukee, having performed a miracle recently with his work on “Carnival” at In Tandem. He also works with high schools in the area and has directed shows at St. Robert for five years.

It can be hard getting kids to have the kind of discipline to create a complicated show like this, but Miller got everyone on board this train. And Valerie Miller, making her St. Robert debut, got all the energy out of the actors and singers and the music was as smooth as a brand new ice rink.

I’ve been reviewing professional theater  for a long time and can honestly say that this production at St. Robert was one of the most fun I’ve seen in a long time. Everyone deserves congratulations and I can hardly wait until next year.

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