Entertainment » Theatre

Shrek The Musical

by Robert Sokol
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Oct 23, 2013
Shrek The Musical

Theatre is by nature an ephemeral art and when a show closes - whether it's a megahit or a fabled flop - it's pretty much gone forever. Broadway plays and musicals are frequently documented to archival video, but these are usually only available for viewing in New York City institutions and often require special permissions from various rights holders.

So for musical theatre fans with limited access to the Great White Way, home video offerings like the new DreamWorks package of "Shrek: The Musical" with the imprimature of "Original Broadway Cast" are a rare and, depending on your opinion of the work being presented, welcome treat.

Based on the first of four hit films developed from the novel by William Stieg, "Shrek" is the tale of a largely amiable Scots-accented ogre, his talking donkey sidekick and their adventure rescuing Princess Fiona for Lord Farquaad. It arrived on Broadway as the DreamWorks Theatricals counter to the hugely successful Disney machine, picking up one Tony (Costume Design) and later a Grammy for the cast recording. With music by Jeanine Tesori ("Caroline, Or Change") and lyrics and book by playwright David Lindsey-Abaire ("Rabbit Hole"), the show was a modest success, running just over a year.

The bonus material potential for this release was huge, but disappointingly the best the set offers is a featurette introduced by Cameron Diaz...and seven sing-along tracks.

The quality of the video capture is impressive. Colors on the 10-camera shoot are nicely saturated to create Shrek's fairytale world and Michael Warren directs a pleasing mix of close-ups with medium and wide shots. Occasionally the pacing of cuts is a little frenetic and would benefit from resting on more sustained wide shots of the dance sequences to show off the ensemble efforts. That said, the production keeps the experience nicely grounded as a theatrical experience, blending in some live audience reactions and framing the conductor into several sequences. Stars Brian D'Arcy James, Sutton Foster, Daniel Breaker, and Christopher Sieber perform with gusto, with special kudos to Breaker for not just aping Eddie Murphy's memorable take on Donkey.

The Deluxe Blu-ray Edition includes a standard definition DVD, Digital Copy and Digital HD versions. The main program runs 90 minutes of 1.78:1 widescreen presentation with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound (Dolby Digitial 5.1 on the DVD) and includes chapter marks, and captions in English, Spanish and Quebecois French.

The bonus material potential for this release was huge, but disappointingly the best the set offers is "From Swamp to Stage: The Making of 'Shrek: The Musical'," a featurette introduced by Cameron Diaz (the movie voice of Princess Fiona) and weighted toward scenes from the show you just watched and a few spare snippets of rehearsal and talking heads of producers and writers. There are also seven sing-along tracks with lyrics (of the 17 songs in the show). All else are just extended commercials for the DreamWorks film library which could be forgiven if the producers had also made room for a true "making of" documentary that delved into the music, make-up and costumes, performers and rehearsal process of bringing an animated feature to life on stage eight times a week. Still having at least the show is better than no video at all.

"Shrek: The Musical"??
Blu-ray | DVD? Digital HD Combo Pack

Robert Sokol is the editor at BAYSTAGES, the creative director at VIA MEDIA, and the program manager for The [TBA] Awards. Writer, diva wrangler, cinefiler, and occasional saloon singer, he has been touching showbiz all his life. (So far no restraining orders have been issued!) His by-line also appears in the San Francisco Examiner, Theatre Bay Area Magazine, The Sondheim Review, and other regional or national publications and websites.


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