Please note: This review originally appeared on PlanetEye Traveler.
According to Shrek, “Fairytales really ought to be updated,” which is exactly what Shrek: the Musical does by taking the traditional fairy prince and princess formula for a creative spin. The result is true family entertainment, since instead of something glitzy for kids, but mind-numbingly cliche for adults, all ages can enjoy the story.
Shrek (Eric Petersen), Donkey (Alan Mingo, Jr.) and Princess Fiona (Haven Burton)
For those unfamiliar with the plot, Shrek is a swamp-dwelling ogre who wants nothing more than to be left alone. After his home is invaded by a swarm of displaced fairytale characters, this reluctant hero embarks upon a life-changing quest, inadvertently finding true love and friendship along the way.
Ultimately, Shrek: the Musical is about accepting people for who they really are. To this end, David Lindsay-Abaire’s book and lyrics strike a balance between fairytale optimism and sarcastic jabs at society’s norms. Fans of the Shrek movie will be happy to find all the original jokes intact, while this stage adaptation brings the added dimension of song and dance.
It’s not easy to adapt the fluidity of animated scenes to the hindrance of physical reality, but Shrek: the Musical lives up to this creative challenge, bringing us vibrant lighting, delightful puppets, excellent costumes and varied staging. The dragon puppetry in the castle scene worked especially well, while Carrie Compere’s big voice imbued her role as that lovestruck reptile with energy reminiscent of the Dreamgirls classic, “You’re gonna love me.”
To me, Broadway musicals call to mind show tunes, by which I mean big voices belting out big tunes in a big way. A pleasant surprise to Shrek: the Musical is Jeanine Tesori’s introduction of a few more acoustically driven numbers, such as when Shrek (Eric Petersen) sings “Build a Wall” accompanied mainly by guitar. These more subtly arranged pieces bring emotional depth to the tale.
Every fairytale needs a villain, and Shrek: the Musical is no exception. David F.M. Vaughn, as the sinister Lord Farquaad makes a capable bad guy, and was the source of several sight gags and amusing choreography. Haven Burton, as Princess Fiona, aptly reveals her character’s manic side in, “Morning Person,” which features a clever tap-dancing rat scenario. Alan Mingo, Jr., who plays Shrek’s self-appointed sidekick, Donkey, is an attention grabber from the start. His character’s sassy antics tide the audience over until we start to care for the rest of the cast.
One of the most successful aspects of the Shrek: the Musical is that – unlike many romantic tales – this one spends time showing the love relationship develop. Of course, Shrek is an ogre, so their courtship is not the classiest. He and the high-spirited princess bond mainly over their gaseous bodily functions. Scatalogical humor aside, their duet, “I Think I Got You Beat” succeeds in making the audience truly care about the pair.
Although I did see plenty of children in the audience, the very fact that Shrek: the Musical is a well-rounded story could explain why I also saw plenty of adult couples in attendance without any kids in tow. And why not? Shrek: The Musical is a fun, feel-good show that makes great date night fare.
Dallas Summer Musicals has timed Shrek: the Musical to coincide with the Texas State Fair. What makes this especially nice is that you can use your ticket to the musical for free admission to the fair on the same day.
What: Shrek: The Musical
When: Through October 17th, 2010
Where: Music Hall at Fair Park (map)
Price: $29 – $133.50
More information: Visit the Dallas Summer Musicals official website.
NOTE: While tickets were provided to me for review purposes, the opinions expressed in this article are wholly my own.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals