I’m a big fan of the modern era of animated comedies, like the Toy Story and Shrek series. So it was with some trepidation that I went to see Shrek: the Musical at the Belk Theatre on Thursday night, fearing that the stage production would fail to live up to the joyous movie version (see: the abysmal Young Frankenstein stage play.)
I’m delighted to report that I honestly can’t recall the last time I had this much fun at the theatre. Shrek was every bit as charming and delightful as the original film, and then some.
Following the same exact story as the first of many Shrek films, the musical stage production tells the tale of the lovable ogre who finds himself unexpectedly becoming a hero by rescuing the demanding princess Fiona from a tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. The cranky ogre, the sassy talking donkey, the haughty princess, and even the arrogant diminutive would-be king are all shown onstage with their fair share of musical numbers to differentiate the musical from the film.
Without a doubt, there are three stars in this production, and none of them are the leads. Shrek and Fiona both do a fine job (though Shrek’s songs are often drowned out by the orchestra) but they aren’t what makes this show so surprisingly fun.
No, the real stars of Shrek: the Musical are the witty tongue-in-cheek references to other Broadway favorites (such as Wicked and Dreamgirls to name a couple), the delightful banter and singing by Donkey, and the clever staging of the villainous Lord Farquaad (who performs most of the show on his knees with fake legs, to simulate absurdly short stature.)
And yes, in the order.
Don’t get me wrong: the titular Shrek is funny, the princess is beautiful and talented, the supporting cast is admirable, and the rest of the staging is cleverly done. But the shocking laugh-out-loud send-ups to other shows had true theatre fans like me in stitches, and the antics of Donkey and Lord Farquaad were hysterical.
It’s like watching reruns of Will & Grace: the most entertaining parts were always Karen and Jack, titular characters notwithstanding.
I laughed so hard at this show that I found myself gasping for breath and clutching my date. I even made random acquaintance with the stranger sitting on the other side of me, bonding over our mutual unexpected mirth. This is a very funny show, capturing the magic of the film but infusing a whole new life into the stage production.
Go see Shrek: the Musical. No, really, go see it. It will be the most entertaining couple of hours you’ve had in a theatre in a long time.