Music Review: Shrek The Musical, Original Cast Recording

I’m not sure I can pinpoint my first memory of listening to musicals; my mom was a huge fan of the classic movie musicals of the 50’s and 60’s, and when I was growing up, you could frequently find her watching one on cable or video on the weekends.

Because of that, I enjoyed musicals from a young age, but I was 12 before I made my own, independent decision to search out what was happening on Broadway. That was the year I discovered The Phantom of the Opera, and I’ve been a Broadway fan ever since.

I sometimes can’t keep up with all the new shows, which is apparently how I missed the recent Broadway version of the William Steig novel and popular DreamWorks family film, Shrek. Yes, that’s right, it’s Shrek The Musical! I was recently able to review the Original Cast Recording, and it is fabulous.

They’ve managed to keep all of the cheeky-ness of the movie, poking fun at fairy tale cliches and inserting random pop culture references. If the movie wasn’t quite your style, though, you should know that some of the crude jokes also carry over, and I would generally still rate this show a “PG.” All the characters are here, too – Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Farquaad, Pinocchio, Gingy, and the other assorted storybook denizens. Some dialogue and at least one song (the “Welcome to Dulac” song, which is annoyingly remniscient of “It’s a Small World”, and purposely so) come directly from the movie. But what is new in Shrek The Musical is a deeper tenderness and sense of wanting to belong, of wanting to be loved. The best example of this sentiment is Shrek’s solo, Who I’d Be – a heartfelt explanation of what he’d change about his life, if only he could. There are also some dramatic liberties taken with the film version, adding some interesting elements to the story (like the revelation of Farquaad’s family tree!).

I have to say, for me, Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona completely stole the show. Her optimistic song “I Know It’s Today” is absolutely fantastic, and I think she has some of the best lines and lyrics in the show. Her song “More to the Story” at the finale is also just beautiful. Donkey does a fine job in the show, though he’s not my favorite character (and wasn’t in the movie, either). From what I’ve heard, Pinocchio and Gingy have much bigger roles in the show than in the movie, though you can’t really tell that by the soundtrack alone.

The official Shrek The Musical website has pages of wonderful content, and I really encourage you to go check it out! To help you, here are some linked highlights:

  • Cast Biographies
  • Photos
  • Videos (including televised performances on major morning talk shows)
  • Music (this is the link to purchase on amazon, where you can listen to a sampling of all songs)

I also wanted to point out that they are airing a series of webisodes on the official website called This Is Our Story: From the Swamp to the Stage, which provides interesting background into the making of the musical.

It was just announced that Shrek The Musical has earned 10 Outer Circle Award nominations. (The Outer Circle Awards celebrate the best in Broadway and Off-Broadway theater.) This is an exciting time as this new musical continues to generate buzz, and I’m just grateful I had the chance to check it out and find something new to add to my list of favorites from Broadway!

edited to add: here’s a video of a performance on the Today Show – it’s my FAVORITE song on the CD!