With its sweet love story, wit and spirited song and dance, “Shrek the Musical” happily extended the broad appeal of the 2001 hit animated movie on which it is based.

The current production by the Portland Players features dozens of actors, many in multiple roles, and nearly 20 musical numbers. But this big show doesn’t feel crowded or busy in telling the story of a likable ogre who is unwillingly thrust into a life-changing quest.

Under the direction of Michael Donovan and including choreography by Raymond Marc Dumont, the performance on Saturday night was strong in both serious and comic moments as well as with the music and movement.

From sly references to other musical theater genres and performance styles to appreciating a romantic attraction fueled by a shared flatulence, the show’s aim at both high and low targets was fun.

TJ Scannell embodied the hulking, green-faced ogre Shrek, showing both his character’s (hilariously) menacing side and his more authentic stance as an abandoned oaf, resigned to a life alone in the swamp. Scannell was a compelling presence throughout, incorporating a credible Scottish burr into his voice and adding extra “layers” (a word prominent in the show) to his role.

Scannell’s singing projected well over the, at times, rather loud musical accompaniment by an eight-piece band to the left of the audience. His duet with Princess Fiona on “I Think I Got You Beat” made for a particularly charming moment in the show.

Rachel Jane Henry, as Fiona, who is rescued by Shrek and becomes his love interest, was also a winning stage presence. Whether dancing with chorus-line rats or singing such tunes as the energetic “Morning Person,” Henry, suitably for her character, took charge.

Everyone who has seen the original movie is likely to remember the talkative Donkey. Thomas Smallwood took that role in full furry costume and was a bundle of energy, both with his prancing dance moves and, of course, a steady barrage of funny lines playing with his new-found pal Shrek. It was hard to keep up with all his wisecracks but, judging by their response, the multi-generational crowd was having fun with it all.

Smallwood reached a performance peak in his dalliance with Lindsey Miller as a slithery Dragon who eventually helps save the day.

Mark Barrasso as Prince Farquaad, the heavy in the show, kept his legs hidden under his clever costume in personifying his character’s diminutive stature. Whether speaking, singing or even dancing on his knees, he, along with a whiny puppet gingerbread boy and a truthfulness-challenged Pinocchio, drew some of the biggest laughs from the youngsters in the crowd.

The costumes by Louise Keezer, adorning all manner of storybook characters, included a lot of subtle detail. And the scenic design, by director Donovan, suggested the surroundings while allowing the focus to stay on a stage full of wonderful characters.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.