Then, it's goofily charming; then, ham-handedly earnest.
How about some cuts to make the whole enterprise move a bit more briskly?
A basic guiding principal: When the talented cast is singing and dancing, "Shrek" finds its groove. When the music stops for spoken-word plot exposition, the show creaks to a halt.
David Lindsay-Abaire wrote the book, which rehashes plot points the audience already knows and repeatedly hammers the moral that being beautiful isn't the same as being "normal." (We get it.)
He fares better with his lyrics to Jeanine Tesori's catchily serviceable tunes.
Inventive costumes for a plethora of fairy-tale creatures, from Pinocchio to the Big Bad Wolf, and stylish staging that can go from a castle dungeon to a mysterious woods in the blink of an eye create the requisite spectacle.
The story line faithfully follows the animated movie: Shrek the Ogre wants to be left alone in his swamp but despotic Lord Farquaad banishes all the oddball fairy-tale creatures there. When Shrek goes to complain, with wise-cracking Donkey as a sidekick, he ends up on a quest to free Princess Fiona from a dragon so she can marry Farquaad. Only the princess has a secret, and love is in the air.
As the loveable ogre, Eric Petersen doesn't conjure up the charisma of Mike Myers, who voiced his cartoon counterpart. But that lets the broader characters around him shine.
Haven Burton is sweetly romantic — even when making bluebirds explode — yet earthy enough to pull off a song in which passing gas is part of the joke. Yes, the humor can be a bit lowbrow. More than a bit, actually.
David F.M. Vaughn nearly steals the show as Farquaad. There's a simple way he is made shorter than the other actors to match his animated persona, but it's one of those staging delights that is even funnier for that the trick is so obvious. Vaughn's petulant voice is also a treat: His interrogation of the Ginger Bread Man is the highlight of the show.
Alan Mingo Jr., who's Donkey, played Sebastian in the staged version of "The Little Mermaid" so he has plenty of practice as a fretting, comic sidekick. He emulates Eddie Murphy, the character's movie voice, without parodying him.
In "Make a Move," Mingo must have a strong feeling of déjà vu: It's just a revamp of "Mermaid's" "Kiss the Girl," in which the sidekick urges the hero to declare his love.
Funnier are the deliberate nods to Broadway classics — "Gypsy," "A Chorus Line," "Les Miserables," "The Lion King" and especially a signature moment from "Wicked."
But somehow, as the show drags on, a simple story about love coming in unexpected places with a dash of "don't judge a book by its cover" gives way to an overreaching, soppy finale about equality for those outside the mainstream.
An admirable sentiment, but "Shrek" is best when just sticking with silliness.
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See for yourself
•What: Florida Theatrical Association presentation of 'Shrek: The Musical'
•Where: Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W. Livingston St., Orlando
•When: 8 p.m. today; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday