Available via YouTube, Netflix & other platforms
A musical involving fairy tale characters seemed a highly appropriate choice for over the holidays, but as it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of grit in that particular oyster, Shrek: The Musical seemed like it might provide a winning combination.
I’ve always quite admired the way the Shrek franchise opts for a modern-day spin on the traditional form, undermining expectations and undercutting some of the more winsome aspects with one-liners and witty put-downs. It all works well as an animated cartoon, but does it do the same in a live stage version? Simply put, both yes and no.
The storyline and the characters are the familiar ones from the first film with green-skinned, Caledonian-toned ogre Shrek embarking on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona. Not because he’s any sort of hero himself, of course, but because it’s the only way he can get repossession of his swamp from a group of enforced refugee fairy tale characters who have invaded his solitude – Shrek is a strong believer in social distancing.
The villainous and incredibly short Lord Farquaad needs to marry a princess in order to claim kingship of the land of Duloc and gets Shrek to do the deed accompanied by the wisecracking Donkey. As tradition demands, there are perils to overcome – a dragon to fight, a tall tower to scale and a damsel to rescue from an imposed lockdown – not to mention dealing with a plethora of bodily odours.
But more importantly, there’s prejudice to combat and self-belief to cultivate. This may not be Disney but there are still important lessons to be learned by the characters and, by extension, the audience. Interestingly Shrek/Fiona/Farquaad are all given back stories which show they are linked by abandonment issues in early life. As that’s a constant trope in a lot of fairy tales (cf Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel) this works on more than one level.
‘A modern fairy tale with attitude’: @JohnChapman398 catches up with the Broadway production of #ShrekTheMusical, now available #ondemand. It’s led by @briandarcyjames & the ‘undoubted star’ #SuttonFoster. #theatrereviews #onlinetheatre