Review "Shrek the Musical": Ogre the Top Laughs!

Broadway in Chicago presents

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At Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph
Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Music direction by Andy Grobengieser
Directed by Jason Moore and Rob Ashford
Thru September 5th
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Two hours and forty minutes includes a twenty minute intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

On a road trip, an ogre and a princess bond over bad childhoods, cursed existences and fart jokes. Broadway in Chicago presents Dreamworks SHREK THE MUSICAL, the 3-D singing version of the animated film.   The Lord of Duloc has banished fairytale folk from the city limits.  They flee to the swamp. This home invasion forces a recluse ogre into civic action.  To win back the deed on his home, the ogre must rescue the imprisoned princess.  In his quest, the unlikely hero must battle a fire breathing dragon, legendary prejudice and his own intimacy issues.  He is aided on the road to discovery by a socially aggressive donkey and an identity-struggling princess.  Shrek is Chicago.  It’s a wild onion with layers of flavorful characters that minced with song and dance provides a tasty version of a familiar family recipe.

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Winning the audience ogre, Eric Petersen (Shrek) is the gentle soul trapped in a monster body.  Larsen delivers the humor and song with a light touch and giant presence.  He is fiendishly charming giggling over a one liner or belting out a tune.  Alan Mingo, Jr. (Donkey) is hysterical as an ass desperately seeking friendship.  He channels Eddie Murphy’s signature style and hoofs it up a notch with donkey hips and a strong singing voice.  Haven Burton (Fiona) balances wistful with resourceful in beautiful renditions of “I know it’s today” and “I think I got you beat.”  Although this Fiona doesn’t use karate moves in the woods, she does dance with rats.  During a big blockbuster dance number, Burton taps and kicks with dazzling vermin synchronicity.  For a little guy, David F.M. Vaughn (Lord Farquaad) gets huge laughs mugging to the crowd as the vanity-driven tyrant.  Although it takes four puppeteers to maneuver the elaborate dragon, the really amazing feat is Carrie Compere’s (voice) powerful singing of “Forever.”  From Pinocchio to the Gingerbread man, the stage is alive with enchanted favorites giving it their all for a happy ending. 


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SHREK THE MUSICAL primarily follows the original animated film’s storyline.  It adds in back story on Shrek, Fiona, and even Lord Farquaad’s neglectful parents that lead to their own adult relationship issues.  It also provides visually animated spectacles like “Welcome to Duloc,” where the dancers are a cross between cartoonish and mannequins.  Missing from the stage version is the love story build up between Shrek and Fiona.  They transition from hostile to campfire cozy with only a brief gassy connection.   As noted and whispered by my eleven year old nephew, “the Robin Hood people are missing.”  Probably not noticeable to most but to the Shrek-heads, the ‘Robin Hood people’ encounter is a missing pivotal scene. For tweens, it’s a cool fight.  For the hopeful romantics, it’s the moment when an ogre starts crushing on an independent, self-sufficient woman.  Still, it gets to the happily everafter and it’s not even ogre until they sing “I’m a believer” in a spectacular curtain call. SHREK THE MUSICAL captivates with monster-size laughs as an ogre-the-top spectacle.  

A Shrek-head, Matthew, my eleven year old nephew, describes the show as “It’s JUST fine.”

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