Are you wondering if you should dish out to see Shrek the Musical at the Children’s Theater? I give my very opinionated review of Shrek from book to movie to Broadway to the Children’s Theatre. I’d love to hear your feedback. Let me know what you think of any of them.
In 1990, the Shrek phenomenon began with the publication of the book by William Steig. It was written for 4 to 8 year olds and was only 32 pages. To say the movie was based on it is kind of an exaggeration. There is an Ogre named Shrek who is much nastier than the movie version. There is a talking donkey who Shrek abuses. He is not a main character. And Shrek falls in love with another ogre at the end, however, she was never a princess. The Shrek of the book and his ogre love are nasty to the end. I guess the moral is that there is someone for everyone. As far as kids books go, I wasn’t particularly impressed. I wouldn’t want to own it, but it is kind of a fun conversation starter about how different it is from the movie. The book is available through the library, The Red Balloon Bookshop and Wild Rumpus.
I feel that Shrek the Movie revitalized family film when it was released in 2001. I didn’t have children at the time and, as a rule, I only went to the movies for films that had space ships in them. But I made a point to get to Shrek and loved it. Suddenly the family film bar was raised back up to expect a product that would appeal to both parents and children. (It was only later — with the sequels — that it really became more about selling toys and creating a “brand”.) It was the movie that added the elements of all our favorite fairy tales (a little funnier) and the transformation of Fiona. The producers developed the plot into something that could stretch into a movie and softend Shrek into a likeable character. If you haven’t seen it (and some people haven’t), I recommend it. It’s funny and irreverent, but its still a children’s movie that will appeal to adults.
Shrek the Broadway Musical was not my favorite musical. I kept comparing it to Into the Woods – my favorite twisted fairy-tale musical. Broadway Shrek was aimed at adults and although I didn’t see any reason to turn it off, I didn’t feel it was completely child friendly. My eight-year-old disagrees. She loved it and she has watched it several times since the family viewing. She never re-watched Into the Woods. You can be the judge, it’s streaming on Netflix. I found it a little too mature in parts (and I realize Into the Woods was also too mature, but it was just a better musical). Also, although the musical talent was amazing, the characters were under-developed. There were just places where we got bored. Maybe it would have been different live, but I doubt it.
CHILDREN’S THEATRE COMPANY
What a difference Children’s Theatre made to this musical! Even though it is the same musical and essentially the same script as the Broadway version, they managed to make it a better show. To begin with, they really concentrated on the budding relationship between Shrek and Fiona — when at the end she has to choose between Shrek and Lord Farquaad, it’s not about Shrek being good and Farquaad being evil, it’s about compatibility. This is a good thing, because the Lord Farquaad in the CTC version of this musical is so funny you can’t hate him. CTC did a remarkable job of character development. What they lacked in a broadway-sized budget, they made up for in acting. Despite the fact that the characters were reading essentially the same lines, directer Peter Rothstein and the actors did an amazing job of bringing out the personalities of the characters. Shrek is the loveable curmudgeon, Fiona is amusingly bipolar, and Dragon is amazing. CTC was able to soften many of the “mature” lines in the play so that they did not come off as mature. The theme of the CTC version is about acceptance of everyone and love of yourself — that’s there in the Broadway version, but blown to extremes. I would say if you liked the Broadway version, you will love the CTC version. If, like me, you didn’t care as much for the Broadway version, I still believe you’ll love the CTC version.
Here’s a little taste