While generally I'm opposed to the trend of turning every movie into a big theater production, some certainly lend themselves to the format better than others. It's a symbol of our times, a Broadway production is so expensive and so risky, they want those seats pre-sold with a familiar brand. That's the same reason we get so many carbon copy sequels and remakes in the cineplexes! Whatever happened to actual creativity? When I watched the original "Shrek" at the movies, I thought it was one of the five very best films of the year (that was the year the Academy created the Best Animation category and gave "Shrek" the award, but I've always maintained it should have been up for Best Picture as well). It was smart AND slyly subversive, pleasing for the kids at face value and a treat for adults in its scathing satire and wit. Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled with the many sequels that followed (although most were serviceable) and I groaned when I heard the green ogre was going to Broadway. For every movie to theater flop (for example, I loathed both Footloose and Saturday Night Fever), there are pleasant surprises (who knew Legally Blonde would be so much fun). "Shrek," due to its source material, colorful staging, and exquisite cast, makes the transition relatively smoothly.
This filmed production of the Broadway show benefits greatly from the enthusiastic and extremely talented actors. The Original Broadway cast in this presentation include the great Sutton Foster (Fiona), Brian d'Arcy James (Shrek), Daniel Breaker (Donkey), Christopher Sieber (Lord Farquaad), John Tartaglia (Pinocchio) and Haven Burton (Gingy). Foster, d'Arcy James, and Sieber all picked up Tony nominations with the show picking up another five (including Best Musical). Alas, it only won for Best Costumes, but that was well deserved once you see the get-ups that the actors have to endure. I particularly enjoy Lord Farquaad's diminutive lower half, but its hilarious sight-gag oftentimes takes focus away from Sieber's nifty performance. Along with these delicious and over-the-top costumes, the sets are outlandish, the staging is crisp, and the songs are fitfully amusing. The filmed performance was captured with enough cameras to keep the audience on top of the action so, even though it's not live, you still feel caught up in unfolding events.
Special DVD Features: The set has DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital versions. On the Blu-ray only, there is "From Swamp to Stage," a making-of featurette. On both the Blu-ray and DVD, there is "Shrek The Musical Songbook with Sing-Along" that has seven songs that will play with the lyrics along the bottom of the screen.
The plot of "Shrek," such as it is, has our ogre and his Donkey friend embarking on a quest. Similar to the time frame of the original "Shrek" but with a new story line, the musical is populated by endless gags, juvenile antics, and wacky slapstick. It's in comedy overdrive throughout, but the essence of what makes "Shrek" so endearing remains. Despite the tackiness and mild crudity, this guy has heart. He is as lovable as can be. The show, itself, plays well for younger audiences due to its frantic nature. Little ones might not get every joke and reference, but that's what will keep the adults entertained as well. The eclectic soundtrack works well and keeps things lively veering through many genres of music including R&B, jazz, rock, power ballads and old-fashioned show tunes. Some are relatively straightforward, but many are clever and laugh out loud funny. I really enjoyed the musical interpretation of "Shrek." I don't necessarily think it's a new classic, but it is colorful and fun. KGHarris, 9/13.