Shrek the Musical is a delightful winner. Here is a fun loving big Broadway show for the entire family. Retaining the heart and style of the immensely popular 2001 animated film “Shrek,” the musical stays close to the original story, while expanding on the background of the beloved characters in enchanting ways. And there is a fresh pop score by Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie) with blues and gospel influences. The clever lyrics are by David Lindsay-Abaire (2007 Pulitzer Prize winner), who is also responsible for the book. Everything you probably liked about the movie is still there including some irreverent crude humor, which pops up unexpectedly to rescue awkward moments in the plot.
To reclaim the swamp where he lives from squatting displaced fairy creatures Shrek the ogre, who was originally a cartoon character in William Steig’s book of the same name, must rescue Princess Fiona from the dragon guarded tower. If he brings her to the evil Lord Farguaad, the lord will then become king of Dulac and allow the fairies to return. Along the way Shrek learns about love and not judging others by their appearances. The sweet story is basically about abandoned children and discovering how to “let you freak flag fly.”
The four principal actors are outstanding. Broadway leading man Brian d’Arcy James (a handsome tenor) obscured under layers of latex is charming and believable as Shrek the ogre. We follow him and his new best friend, a swishy donkey played by Daniel Breaker with endearing style, as they set off to rescue Princess Fiona played to perfection by Sutton Foster. Ever since she burst onto the scene winning a Tony for Thoroughly Modern Millie audiences have been in love with Sutton. Along with singing and dancing beautifully she shows off her great comic skills here in a role that allows her to really let loose.
Christopher Sieber is a riot as the evil Lord Farguaad giving him a basic neediness combined with an overriding selfishness that is hysterical. And he plays the entire role, singing and dancing on his knees with artificial mechanical legs hanging from his waist. The device and the actor are priceless.
With a budget of reportedly 24 million dollars Dream Works Theatricals making their first foray into theater has apparently used the money wisely. Tim Hatley’s impressive designs combine high-tech with old style backdrops, while adding pop-up visuals, puppets and lavish costumes to create a lush fantasy setting.
If your kids liked the movie they will surely love the Broadway musical. And adults, too, will enjoy this gleeful staging. Director Jason Moore meshes everything nicely despite some uneven patches which dilute the momentum. And although it takes a long time for the emotional center to show itself, along the way there is never a dull moment.
By: Gordin & Christiano
Originally Published in Dan’s Papers
Shrek the Musical opened at The Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway at 53rd Street, on December 14, 2008. Tickets are available by calling Telecharge.com at 212-239-6200, online or at the box office.