Big, well-funded Broadway musicals based on proven properties and aimed at children don’t have to be great (“The Lion King” to the contrary). They just have to be good enough, solidly structured entertainment. By those standards, the musical version of “Shrek” is more than good enough.
This story of a reclusive ogre, forced by circumstances to go on a life-changing quest, has undeniably become a proven property at the movies—four films in, its well on its way to being a franchise. “Shrek” the musical resembles the film closely enough to satisfy its fans. Tim Hatley’s sets and costumes are as colorful and eye-popping, in their own way, as the flick’s CGI animation.
Jeanine Tesori has crafted an energetic, if not entirely memorable, score that owes a lot to the breezy pop-rock peppered throughout the movie. Sutton Foster, the star of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Tesori’s breakthrough show, seems to be a muse for the composer—as Princess Fiona gets the show’s strongest songs and works them for all they’re worth. The entire cast seems to be having a great time, especially Daniel Breaker out-hamming Eddie Murphy as Donkey and strapping out actor Christopher Seiber performing almost entirely on his knees as the diminutive Lord Farquaad.
On the down side, many of the songs labor way too intensely on “character development” in a way that subtracts rather than adds to the underlying story. I know a kid who thought the Broadway “Young Frankenstein” messed up a good thing with “too many stupid songs.” I have a feeling he would feel the same way about “Shrek.”