Fairy tales are great. I say this as someone who has read them all their lives, and still enjoys reading retellings of them to this very day, and will likely continue to enjoy them for many years to come. I enjoy adaptations of fairy tales, I enjoy attempts at making new fairy tales, and I enjoy what’s known as the ‘Fractured Fairy Tale‘. (Warning; TVTropes may attempt to take over your life with how much time you can spend there without realising you’re doing so. Click on link with caution, and a few free hours.) Why do I bring this up? Well, simple reasons really, You may remember last issue that we had an article reviewing the very first Shrek movie. Well, here’s the thing - since that was written, the musical version of the movie has been made available on DVD and blu-ray in the UK. Now, while there are some similarities, there are some differences too. So, here we go, let’s have a look at Shrek the Musical.
Okay, so first thing to note is that the plot for this is, well, the exact same plot for the first Shrek movie. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Or, in other words, reusing a plot that proved to be popular in film format would likely mean gaining a pre-existing audience, thus meaning that they could be sure that at least a fraction of the seats would be filled. This is generally the idea behind jukebox musicals as well, tapping into a pre-existing audience, but it should be noted that just because you plan to do that, it gives no reason to skimp on any other aspect of the production. Luckily, Shrek doesn’t.
The first thing I’d really love to note about this musical is the lavish use of colour. This musical seems to be declaring that it knows that, really, it’s just a bit of fluff compared to some of the more serious theatre productions out there in the world, but really, what’s wrong with a bit of fluff once in a while? The costumes are bright and brilliant and varied, and you won’t be able to take your ideas away from the varied looks of all the different fairy tale creatures – Peter Pan has a blue stripe in his hair!
Just like the looks of the different characters, the musicals styles also vary from character to character. At least, for the main ones anyway. Well, not a complete variation, the whole musical has this general upbeat, modern sound to its music, but in smaller ways. Our lead character Shrek is more likely to belt out to more rock sounding music,. making it all the more sweeter when he’s suddenly suddenly dropped his voice and is singing far more softly. Fiona has her peppy, happy, princess style music. Donkey is more of a jazz funk creature, and Farquaad… Well, the best way I can describe Farquaad is to advise you to imagine a little kid going ‘neener neener’ a lot. There’s a smugness in his songs, a self satisfaction that is entirely in keeping with his characterisation.
Speaking of which, the extra time that a stage production allows for gave the show runners a chance to look more into the characters, and help to give them more subtle naunces. Shrek is bitter, that we know, but he feels like he has to follow the stories, but if he had a choice, he’d be a hero. Fiona is, in her words, ‘a bit bipolar’ from her years of isolation. Donkey is… Well, Donkey is Donkey, though he does seem far more innocent here at times than I remember him being in the movie. And, as I’ve mentioned, Farquaad is the overgrown spoilt child who still wants the world to do everything he wants it to do.
The performances given in the show, going by this dvd, are actually pretty brilliant. My highlight has to be Christopher Sieber as Lord Farquaad, who plays the role with just the right amount of self-aware, cheesy over the topness as to make it a delight to see him on screen. But major points to Sutton Foster’s Fiona, Brian d’Arcy James’ Shrek, and Daniel Breaker’s Donkey. These three occupy the most stage time, and they really do manage to get their characters down fully.
So, the question remains. Is this a good musical? Well, yes, but don’t expect a lot from it, really. It is, after all, a silly bit of fluff that is highly reminsent of a pantomime except without the audience participation. It’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours, especially if you’re a family looking for something to do over this winter what with the bad weather coming and all.
I’d give Shrek the Musical 3 out of 5 stars.
Z McAspurren (Actually enjoyed this more than she thought she would)