Music by Jeanine Tesori
Directed by Jason Moore & Rob Ashford
Music Direction by Andy Grobengiser
Choreography by Josh Prince
Produced by Dreamworks & Broadway In Chicago
At the Cadillac Palace Theatre – Chicago Theatre District
Mixed feeling mark my reaction to Shrek The Musical
I had no knowledge of Shrek the films before I saw the start of the National Tour production of Shrek The Musical now playing at the Cadillac Palace theatre in Chicago. I must have been the only person in the theatre without knowledge of Shrek since there was a positive recognition of each character as they entered the show. I had no clue.
From the early scenes where we see Shrek, the ogre, being cast out by his parents into the cruel world to fend for himself at age seven, we are suppose to empathize with the green-faced ogre – I never felt his pain. I guess the movie helps? The Broadway production lasted only 478 performances and had a $24 Million Dollar budget – the show lost money despite rave reviews. Could it be that movies-turned-into- stage musicals are become trite?
My mixed feelings about Shrek the Musical arise from the strange tone of the show. It is part adult fairy tale (it is NOT a children’s’ show at 2 hours, 35 minutes with some adult themes), part Broadway musical, part live enactment of the film (so everyone tells me), to me it played like a theme park extravaganza.
The story involves Shrek (Eric Petersen) as he journeys to gain the deed to his swamp so he can live alone after casting out all the fairy tale figures from other tales that were imposed on him by the authorities. Along his journey, Shrek meets a talking Donkey (the charismatically funny Alan Mingo, Jr.)-the two become friends and collaborate in saving the Princess Fiona (Haven Burton) from her imprisonment in a tower guarded by a flame-throwing dragon. Upon saving the Princess, Shrek must show his hideous face to Fiona. Can the two ever become lovers? Shrek can dream!
The musical numbers are a pastiche of musical styles from ballads to R & B to dance Broadway numbers with some pop/rock elements. Just as I disliked one number, a catchy cute, even clever number followed leaving me perplexed as to the show’s tone. All the winking satire and references to other Broadway shows is now standard fare as they were in abundance here. The colorful sets and costume design (by Tim Hatley) and the bouncy choreography by Josh Prince were a delight. His tap number featuring dancing rats was a hoot!
Act two’s opening show stopper, “Morning Person” was terrific and the large dragon puppet (designed by Tim Hatley) worked most effectively. Shrek sure has its moments but the fart jokes and the demeaning mock of little people in the character of Lord Farquaad was particularly offensive despite David F. M. Vaughn’s sardonic performance.
A mixed bag of a fine number, a tender moment is followed by a silly, even offensive scene with a screeching song diminished the show’s flow and appeal. We are suppose to like Shrek yet I found him not near as endearing as Donkey. Did I miss something? The show’s moral- that beauty doesn’t mean pretty – is beaten to death and the over-hyped ending left me thinking that the show is trying too hard to please. Shrek lover’s will cherish this show; Broadway musical lovers will either love it or hate it. You be the judge since I’m a minority on this one. Everyone around me loved the show’s energy – I found it lacked heart.
At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL, call 800-775-2000, tickets $25 – $90, www.broadwayinchicago.com for show schedule, running time is 2 hours, 35 minutes with intermission.