Friday, July 30, 2010

Providing a Bit of Ogre Analysis

Theater Review

Shrek: The Musical
Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago
Thru September 5, 2010

Shrek the Musical is an entirely enjoyable show, sure to provide a fine evening of entertainment to people of all ages. Derived mainly from the first Shrek movie, it adapts the tale of Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, Lord Farquaad, etc., to the stage quite enchantingly.

Composer Jeanine Tesori, writer & lyricist David Lindsay-Abaire and co-directors Jason Moore & Rob Ashford all have first-rate pedigrees and they've done a nice job of keeping the movie's charm and humor intact while incorporating several fine songs and production numbers (there is only one holdover pop song from the movie, but I'll let it surprise you). Broadening the show's appeal to adults, the creators pay homage to many previous Broadway musicals through several sly references.

I never saw Shrek on Broadway, where is got solid reviews but didn't become a huge hit, and I understand that it has been revamped a good bit for the road. Chicago is the first stop of the national tour and the performances--led by Eric Petersen as the green monster and Todd Buonopane who gets inventively diminutive as Lord Farquaad--are all strong, though only a few struck me as especially noteworthy (there is a dragon scene that's really well-sung by Carrie Compere, although she's unidentifiable in it). 

While the show likely won't disappoint anyone who cares enough to go see it, and is better than many other musicals I've seen, it also isn't nearly as good as the very best musicals and therefore doesn't fall into the category of "must see."

Although this is Dreamworks' first foray into live theater and the Shrek character was pretty original and unique when the initial movie came out, the musical milieu of late (if not forever) has been strewn with shows about how those who are a bit different should be championed, not scorned (Billy Elliot, Wicked, Hairspray, etc.). So at least in terms of its central theme, Shrek the Musical doesn't seem all that novel, and while songs like "Freak Flag" are appealing, their ilk has been done a bit better elsewhere.

Even in terms of musicals that fall into the category of family fare, Shrek doesn't measure up to Billy Elliot, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King (which roars back into Chicago in September). But it also clearly isn't a dog like 101 Dalmatians.

In sum, if you had no prior inclination to see Shrek the Musical, there's probably no need to rush out and get a ticket. But if you already have one or have been considering going, the show is certainly worth your while. Even if not a classic, Shrek is still awfully imaginative, engaging and enjoyable as a stage act.

And after all, it's not easy being green.


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