Shrek was the first to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It was also nominated for the Best Adapted screenplay Oscar. Based on William Steig’s fairy tale book Shrek!, the film has inspired three sequels, a spin-off, videogames, and vast merchandising.
It also inspired a stage musical. A filmed presentation of the musical was released for Home Entertainment mid-October.
It’s surprising that theater-goers didn’t flock to Shrek the Musical as they did other movie adaptations like Lion King, Mary Poppins, and The Producers. Many elements of the movie successfully transfer over to stage. The movie was noted for its hip spin on pop culture references. Likewise, the stage version delights theater fanatics by referencing such institutions as Bob Fosse, A Christmas Carol, A Chorus Line, and Gypsy. Also like the movie, the adult-like humor is maintained for the musical. The theme of “True Beauty” also remains.
Like the Disney adaptations, mesmerizing puppetry is utilized. But they’re also made in a way that mocks the current trend of over-puppetization. The musical does have one incomparable force: the genius of John Tartaglia. The actor, who was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in Avenue Q, shows he’s more than just a puppeteer. With an elastic voice and agile body, Tartaglia also brings depth to his character, Pinocchio. The filmed iteration also has the actor performing the Magic Mirror and the Dragon. (For the US touring production, the mirror was cut, and the dragon was re-envisioned.)
The rest of the cast, top-lined by Brian d’Arcy James and Sutton Foster, both Tony award holders, pull out all the stops to entertain the audience. Like Tartaglia, most of the supporting cast performs in multiple roles (favorite was Rachel Stern as Mama Ogre/Tweedle Dum). The extremely talented Foster occasionally pushes her unorthodox Princess too much, and while her over-indulgences rub off in the teen actress playing a younger version, Foster’s abilities shine through. While there’s no comparison to Eddie Murphy, the voice of Donkey in the films, Daniel Breaker is perfectly fine. And performing on his knees, Christopher Sieber is a deliciously self-aggrandizing Lord Dulac.
There are some slow parts in the work. Some reviewers panned it for not having memorable songs. However, I’ve watched several segments repeatedly and can attest to that critique not being valid. “Freak Flag” and “This is Out Story” are as hummable as any out there.
That it ran just over a year is surprising. Ipaddress It’s a fun show that will entertain adults and kids as well as fans of the movies and those who’ve never heard of a green ogre with a Scottish accent.
Shrek the Musical is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital download.