Greetings my Loyal Reader(s), and welcome to the latest edition of the Branson Beat, your home for all the news on the Branson entertainment scene.

As always, feel free to drop me a line at jclark@bransontrilakesnews.com, or send me a message via our Branson Tri-Lakes News Facebook page.

Now, let’s get to it. 

Welk lands another hit with ‘Shrek the Musical’

The Welk Resort Theatre in Branson debuted its latest special production, “Shrek the Musical,” last week, and I believe it is safe to say, they have yet another hit on their hands. 

“We are so proud to be able to present a fantastic new production of Shrek The Musical this summer,” said General Manager of The Welk Resort Susan Smith. “We’ve had such a great experience presenting musical theatre in Branson for the past four years with our production of ‘Million Dollar Quartet,’ (which will return this fall) that we’ve decided to introduce a musical production we feel the whole family will enjoy.

“We can’t wait for our guests to experience all of the same laughter and fun from the movie ‘Shrek,’ live on stage. It’s going to be something families will not want to miss.”

The play follows the same storyline as the beloved flick, which sees Shrek embark on a mission to recapture his swamp, while finding love, friendship and fun along the way.

Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animation film, “Shrek The Musical” is a Tony Award-winning fairy tale adventure, featuring songs from Jeanine Tesori, who wrote tunes or “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Caroline, or Change,” as well as a book, or script as some folks call it, by David Lindsay-Abaire.

Armed with a great venue and a stellar book, producers at the Welk Resort Theatre were then faced with the task of casting the show. They auditioned loads of folks from all over the country, and ended up assembling a great cast.

Shrek is played with all the necessary onion layers by Logan Edris. His acting choices and vocals, which are fantastic, are all the more impressive once you realize he’s doing it all under pounds of costumes and makeup.

Inhabiting the role of Shrek’s true love, Princess Fiona, is Aubrey Reece. It takes a special kind of actress to possess the passion, strength, humor and vocal chops necessary to portray this unique princess, and Reese is pitch perfect.

Tackling the iconic role of “Donkey,” made famous by Eddie Murphy, is Kenneth Washington. It would have been very easy for Washington to come out, do an Eddie Murphy impression, and call it a day, but that’s not the case. He gives the audience everything it needs from that character, and the kiddos loved him.

Clayton Avery’s Lord Farquaad is devilish, delightful and over the top - everything a villain should be. Plus, he sings, dances and even runs, all while acting on his knees. 

While it is evident everyone on stage is having lots of fun, no one is having quite as good a time as Avery. 

Finally, Mesa Mitchell has the daunting task of providing the voice “Dragon,” a massive puppet which takes a handful of techs to bring to life. “Dragon” is large, colorful, and impressive, and draws every eye in the house to it, at least until Mitchell opens her mouth. She has the perfect voice for this role, and believe me Loyal Reader(s), she flat-out kills it.

Speaking of killing it, that also could be said about the large supporting cast.    From Farquaad’s soldiers to the fairy tale characters, everyone does a fantastic  job. 

Also doing a fantastic job is the technical crew. The sets are massive, the props numerous and the cast large, but everything ran like clockwork.

In fact, from the front of the house, it looked as if they’d been performing the show for years, which is thanks in large part to Stage Manager Chris Cathcart. He always does an awesome job, and “Shrek the Musical” is no exception. If I didn’t know it was opening night, I wouldn’t have been able to guess it was opening night. Seriously, it was right on.

In addition to falling all over myself to compliment this production, I do need to remind everyone it is important to remember this musical production is based on a “PG-rated” animated movie. 

Remember, “PG” stands for “Parental Guidance Suggested – some material may not be suitable for children.”

See, the thing that made “Shrek” such a box office smash is it used a perfect marriage of bright, colorful characters, bodily function humor and action scenes, all perfect for the kiddos, mixed with double entendre and jokes that go flying right over their heads, all perfect for the adults. “Shrek the Musical” uses those same aspects, and it works like a charm. The kids were enthralled and on the edges of their seats, while the parents laughed and giggled. 

To clarify things a bit, there isn’t anything “dirty” in the show, but there are more than a few jokes revolving around bodily gas, as well as a few funny bits involving another word that can be used for Donkey. That joke was perfectly executed during the “Travel Song,” which featured Shrek lamenting his relationship with Donkey through the lyrics “this ass ‘o mine is asinine.”

Long story short, if anything featured in the movie offends you or your delicate sensibilities, then there is a very high likelihood those things will also be present in this show. 

Regardless, “Shrek the Musical” is big-time fun, and I fully expect it to be “The Hottest Ticket in Town,” as my friend Mickey Gilley used to say.

Make plans to see it now, as “Shrek the Musical” only runs through Aug. 10. Showtimes are 10 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m., depending on the date.

For more information, visit shrekbranson.com.

‘Melody Hart with Family & Friends next Sunday at Grand Country

Father’s Day at Grand Country Music Hall will see one of the coolest shows of the summer as Melody Hart and her family, Wayne, Garrett and Dillon Massengale, will take the stage for a special “one time only” presentation of “Melody Hart with Family & Friends.”

Hart, who is one of the most popular, and most awarded entertainers in Branson, got in the business when she was a youngster, and eventually made her way to Branson. After a few years, she came to the attention of Grand Country producer extraordinaire Mike Patrick, who jumped at the chance to hire Melody for the “Down Home Country Show.” Hart also headlines the weekly radio and TV show “Branson Country USA,” and was also a part of the “Raiding the Country Vault” cast for many seasons.

Joining Hart will be her husband, the ridiculously awesome fiddler Wayne Massengale. A Branson staple since 1981, including 10 years with the award-winning “Country Tonite” show, and was also a part of “Clay Cooper’s Country Express Show.” Over the years, he’s been awarded Branson Fiddler of the Year five times, has won the Arkansas State Championship, and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association (SPBGMA) Most Promising Fiddler award.

The band will feature their sons Garrett and Dillon. Garrett recently graduated high school, and is already taking the stage as a part of several Branson productions. Dillon, who is still in high school, has already been featured on “Branson Country USA.”  In addition to the family, the Massengales have assembled a pretty awesome lineup for the band, including Dino Strunk on guitar, John Lance on bass and vocals, Robbie Springfield on steel guitar, as well as  special guest Lisa Childress, her daughter, Addie Jarvis, and her husband, Brett Jarvis.

Tickets to this “one-time” event are available at the Grand Country Music Hall box office, or by calling 417-335-2484.

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