I decided to bring FGF back, because they’re fun to write and they make me happy.
Let’s get the messy business out of the way first, shall we? I now have an apartment with Cheryl, as already mentioned in Monday’s entry, but now I also have a brand spanking new job (cue the standing ovation). I don’t want to write on it just yet though; not until I start next Monday. I will say that it’s a sales job and I get paid on a commission-type basis, but it’s more of a collecting-money-type deal than selling things. I’ll talk about it on a later date once I’ve, y’know, actually started.
So at first I thought I’d spend this Fan Girl Friday talking about my trip to Hobbiton with Kathleen some odd weeks back, seeing as I keep putting that one off, and then maybe I thought I would talk about all the books I’ve devoured in the last week (because the Wellington library is my best friend), but nah. Let’s talk about something not really relevant to my travels in New Zealand. Let’s talk about something virtually no one but myself cares about because, hey, I’m really good at ranting about my strange interests.
Let’s talk about Shrek.
This is a weird thing to dedicate an entire entry towards, trust me, I am well aware. Maybe not so weird as random, really, because good god is it random.
It all started because of Kathleen. At some point during our travels she played a couple songs from Shrek the Musical for me, which began the obsession. Before that I had been one hundred percent adverse to the idea of Shrek being a Broadway musical. It didn’t fit, in my mind. It wasn’t like Billy Elliot or Spring Awakening where the source material held a lot of great potential for being turned into a big Broadway musical.
What’s more, I pretty much saw it as Dreamworks trying to milk every last penny from the Shrek franchise, what with all of their sequels and straight-to-DVD films out already. In my eyes the Shrek franchise was good up until the third film came out. First one was awesome, second one pretty good, but third and onward? No thank you.
Anyway, long story short, Kathleen and I ended up spending part of her last day in New Zealand watching Shrek and Shrek 2 in our hostel room. I had forgotten how funny both movies were, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. After Kathleen left the next day, I somehow ended up searching Youtube for one of the songs she had played for me. It was a pretty good song, once I properly listened to it, so I listened to it again… and again… and again… and again… and again… and – okay, you get the point. For two days I pretty much listened to the song ‘Who I’d Be’ on constant repeat.
Don’t give me that strange look. It’s a goddamn good song.
So, the night before I leave Auckland, I finally cave and buy myself the entire soundtrack. If I like this song so much (plus two others Kathleen had played me that I ended up relistening to as well) then surely the rest of the soundtrack is worth a listen, right?
I listened to the whole thing all the way through on my bus from Auckland to Napier. To be honest, I wasn’t really taken with it at first, so after it was over I shrugged it off. But that night, upon doing research, I realized that they had filmed Shrek the Musical while the original cast was still on Broadway and the product had only just been released on DVD. Curiosity struck yet again, so I decided to download the recorded performance just to see what it was like.
Needless to say, I ended up falling in love with it.
Let’s be clear: it pretty much met all my expectations, both high and low. The whole thing, especially the beginning, felt super rushed, which I think could’ve been easily fixed if it was a half hour longer. I mean, it wouldn’t have killed ‘em to make it a two hour and forty minute show. That’s not extreme in musical terms. Also, there was a lot of potty humor (ie. the one type of humor I’m not a fan of), and a great deal of the jokes/gags were done sort of for cheap laughs. Funny enough, most of the gags I felt didn’t work in the play came directly from the film. Huh.
Even so, as a whole the musical is a lot of fun. It’s got some great dance numbers, some great music (which grew on me quickly), and the performers were spectacular. Not to mention it’s got a whole lot of heart.
I’ve got a handful of small, nitpicky things that I don’t think worked well for the show, but my biggest complaint by far has to do with Dragon. The fact that they made a giant puppet of the character is awesome and looked really cool, but besides the awesome visual effect I felt like her character added virtually nothing to the musical (as opposed to the film where she’s an awesome addition). I understand why they couldn’t cut Dragon from the show, because the majority of the people who went to see Shrek the Musical were fans of the movie and expected her to be there, buuuuut I think the show would’ve benefited if they had just cut her and only alluded to a dragon in the castle. I mean, the only reason to really keep Dragon is because she gets rid of the villain at the end. That is literally it. Anyway, just my personal opinion. It doesn’t help that her song ‘Donkey Pot Pie’ is probably my least favorite song in the play too.
Okay, enough about the negative, let’s talk about what it is that I love about this show.
First off, I thought they did a good job transitioning the story from film to stage. I’m always really hesitant about taking big, elaborate movies and trying to make them into tangible theatre pieces. Remember Lord of the Rings The Musical? Yeah, that show sucked royal hippogriff in so many ways and is the worst professional musical, to date, that I’ve ever seen.
For the most part, Shrek‘s transition from film to staged musical is a successful one. As stated before, it does feel a bit rushed at times (Fiona and Shrek fall in love in the duration of one song). However, they did add in Shrek’s childhood at the beginning and a look into Fiona’s past, which was lovely, and I like how they play up how Shrek and Fiona had similar, lonely childhoods. I also love that they give more attention to the Fairytale Creatures and their plight of being exiled, considering that plot point is majorly dropped from the film after Shrek leaves them on his swamp.
As for music, I’m kind of in love with this soundtrack. As I said before, I couldn’t get into the whole thing at first, but now I’m at the point where it’s the only thing I listen to when I go to the gym in the morning.
‘Who I’d Be’, ‘I Know It’s Today’, and ‘When Words Fail’ are still my three favorite numbers, but I also have come to adore ‘Overture/Big Bright Beautiful World’, ‘What’s Up, Duloc?’, ‘Morning Person’, ‘I Think I Got You Beat’, ‘This is Our Story’, and ‘Build a Wall’. Not to mention I’m kind of in love with both Fairytale Creature numbers. I think they do a nice job showcasing the “what fairytale characters would actually be like if they were real” aspect. Plus ‘Freak Flag’ is inspirational and you can’t convince me otherwise.
‘Donkey Pot Pie’ is probably the weakest song in the entire show (I don’t hate it, but it’s certainly not a great song). Not to mention that I feel like Donkey’s songs are all kind of… bland? All three of them pretty much just draw from Eddie Murphy lines taken from the film, as opposed to Shrek, Fiona, Farquaad, and the Fairytale Creatures, who all get awesomely new, original songs.
Now the performers.
John Tartaglia is great as both Pinocchio and the Magic Mirror. While it’s kind of disappointing that he didn’t have more stage time, it’s still wonderful to see him back on Broadway for the first time since Avenue Q. His puppetering skills also shine through, as he was the main puppeteer for Dragon. The man really is a quadruple threat: singing, dancing, acting, and puppeteering.
If Lara and I get ever get him on our Muppet podcast once it takes off, you can bet your sweet bippy I’m going to gush about both Shrek and Avenue Q to him nonstop. I might also have to mention the enormous crush I had on him when I was fifteen. We’ll see.
And oh my goodness, I have been in love with Christopher Sieber ever since I saw him in Spamalot in New York, but this show made me fall in love with him all over again. He brings a whole new level of humor to Farquad that was missing in the film. He’s over the top, sassy, and silly, and I absolutely love it. Normally it’s hard for me to prefer a readapted character over the original, but here it wasn’t difficult at all. Sieber knocks it out of the park. Not to mention he’s really goddamn talented – how many people could do two dance numbers while on their knees? Not many, that’s for sure.
Daniel Breaker is a lovable and likeable Donkey. That being said, I don’t think he necessarily matches the level of comedic timing that Eddie Murphy brought to the character. A lot of his lines are taken verbatim from the film – seeing as Donkey is everyone’s favorite that’s not much of a surprise – and the different choices he attempts to make in presenting/voicing the lines just don’t really work quite as effectively as when Murphy did it. He does hold his own though (while running around in a donkey onesie no less), and I find his best moments in the musical were ones penned for the musical and not taken from the movie (my favorite is during his bridge for ‘Make A Move’).
I still wish he could have been given better songs, but at least he does a great job with the ones he had. He does have one hell of a voice, I’ll give him that.
Now, I have a lot of deep emotions when it comes to my girl Fiona. She’s one of my favorite fictional princesses of all time, Disney included, so I was intrigued to see how she came to life on stage.
That being said, holy hell, I love Sutton Foster’s take on the character. She’s not quite as bad ass as film Fiona (mostly because the play ditched the epic fight sequence with Robin Hood for an equally epic dance sequence with a crew of rats), but she’s still strong, feisty, and unique. Not to mention she’s kind of hilarious. Like, we’re talking funniest-part-in-the-entire-show hilarious (or at least tied with Chris Sieber). Sutton Foster is a huge goober in real life, and it shines through in this character. She just gets to be silly while being her amazing, beautiful, talented self. I love that they gave her a big dance/tap number, reminding the world that Sutton Foster is more talented than basically everyone else (I’m pretty sure no one’s ever had as much fun in their entire life than Sutton Foster did while performing ‘Morning Person’).
Then there’s Shrek. Ah Shrek. I’ve had an affinity for Brian d’Arcy James ever since I stumbled across videos of him playing Dan in the Next to Normal off Broadway shows. Needless to say, Brian does a magnificent job portraying Shrek, considering he’s wearing a thick layer of prosthetics/makeup and a fat suit. He plays up the crudeness and cruelness that is our loveable ogre, but the heart shines through all the while. Not to mention he kills it with all of his numbers (Breaker may have a one hell of a voice, but James’ voice is the type that makes your spine tingle when it hits those right notes). ‘Who I’d Be’ is moving, ‘When Word’s Fail’ is sweet, and ‘Big Bright Beautiful World (Reprise)’ maaaay have made me cry on the bus in front of some strangers… but I’ll never tell.
The fact that I’m so deeply in love with this silly, overly expensive musical doesn’t mean I’m still not aware that it’s a ploy for Dreamworks to get more money. Of course it is. I’m very well aware that the musical is commercialized and the last traces of a franchise trying to hold onto what they once had, but that doesn’t mean the product of such greedy exploits can’t be fun and silly and wonderful with a whole lot of heart. Because that really is how I feel about it. It’s not a deeply profound show or anything, but it’s just nice. I have a good time watching it, and sometimes that’s really enough. Not every play has to be a Godot or a Next to Normal. Sometimes I just want to sit back and have fun.
The thing that I most liked about the show in comparison to the film is how they play up Shrek’s outlook on the world, which we get to see different sides of in three songs through the repetition of the idea of the “big bright beautiful world” that Shrek lives in.
In the opening number, ‘Big Bright Beautiful World’, we see a young Shrek being told he can take part in the beautiful world around him because he is an ogre and “people hate the things they do not understand.” This is followed swiftly by a grown up Shrek affirming that he doesn’t need that beautiful world that’s denied him of everything. He’s “happy where [he is], all alone” and that’s the way he likes it. Screw that big bright beautiful world, right?
The next song to bring up this idea is ‘Who I’d Be’. Now this song gives me a lot of feels and is kind of the number one reason I became interested in Shrek The Musical. In this song we see Shrek toying with the idea of being something different than an ogre. At first he tells Donkey there’s nothing else he’d rather be, but after a little coercing he opens up, declaring he’d much rather be a hero – the knight in shining armor who rides in, saves the girl, and gets his happy ending. In this, we’re able to see that he lied in the first number; that he really does want to be apart of that big bright beautiful world. He knows that it can’t be that way, but it is what he secretly wishes for.
Finally, in the ‘BBBW (Reprise)’, we see Shrek approach Fiona in attempt to explain how much he loves her. In turn, he ends up repeating the words his parents told him when he was young, but putting a twist on it. In the end he tells her, “It’s a big bright beautiful world. I see it now, I’ll let it in, I’ll tear down the wall to build a spot for two to be with you.” Not only in saying this is Shrek admitting that Fiona has made him want to fight to be apart of the world around him, but that she basically is his big bright beautiful world.
‘Kay, I don’t think you understand how motherfucking adorable that is, people. He pretty much goes on telling the world that he doesn’t need to be part of the world, even though deep down inside that’s all he wants, until he realizes he loves Fiona and that she is the world that he wants. IT’S JUST REALLY SWEET AND IT GIVES ME A LOT OF FEELINGS.