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'Shrek the Musical' on Broadway: What did the critics think?

December 15, 2008 | 10:00 am

Brian_darcy_james_as_shrek "Shrek the Musical" opened at the Broadway Theatre in New York on Sunday night, marking DreamWorks' first theatrical venture on Broadway.

With book and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire ("Rabbit Hole") and music by Jeanine Tesori ("Caroline, or Change"), "Shrek the Musical" largely follows the 2001 film from which it was adapted, which was, in turn, based on the William Steig book about a cranky but charming green ogre.

The musical stars Brian d'Arcy James (seen in L.A. in 2005's "White Christmas") in the title role, Sutton Foster (seen in L.A. in 2005's "Drowsy Chaperone") as Princess Fiona, Daniel Breaker ("Passing Strange") as Donkey and Christopher Sieber (seen in L.A. in 2002's "Into the Woods") as Lord Farquaad.

So were the sometimes monstrous critics kind to this jolly green ogre? Keep reading below...   

Christopher_sieber_as_lord_farqua_3 "If the storytelling is bumpy in patches and the songs don't quite soar, the show never stints on spectacle or laughs, making it a viable contender for a slice of the Disney market on Broadway," writes David Rooney of Variety.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times says: "'Shrek,' for the record, is not bad...  definitely a cut above the most recent offerings from its creators’ direct competitor in cartoon-inspired musicals, Walt Disney." Yet, he says: "Aside from a few jolly sequences (nearly all featuring the hypertalented Ms. Foster), this cavalcade of storybook effigies feels like 40 blocks’ worth of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, accompanied by an exhaustingly jokey running commentary."

Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press writes: "The folks at DreamWorks have done their darndest to make sure we are entertained at 'Shrek the Musical,' the company's lavish stage adaptation of its hit animated movie. For much of the time, they succeed, thanks to the talent and ingratiating appeal of the show's four principal performers."

"There's a lot to admire and enjoy," writes Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune, adding, "It just struggles to sufficiently relax into itself."

Brian_darcy_james_daniel_breaker_an John Simon of Bloomberg calls Jason Moore's direction "sprightly," the performances "uniformly engaging," the choreography "charming," the costumes and sets "delightful." And yet, he says, "As 'Shrek the Musical' opens at the Broadway Theatre ... there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that it is done very well; the bad news is that it is done at all."

Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News says, " 'Shrek the Musical' certainly has things to like, even if it's sometimes ungainly."

" 'Shrek the Musical' is sweet and busy, nice and big, and, every so often, extremely lovable,"  says Linda Winer of Newsday. "Given the beloved source, not to mention a seriously bright creative team, we can be forgiven for expecting more than a paint-by-numbers fractured fairy tale from DreamWorks' first challenge to Disney on Broadway."

"Though it will not go down in history as a masterpiece," writes Malcolm Johnson of the Hartford Courant, "this collaboration of David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori delivers a funny, lively fairy tale about a misanthropic outsider and a princess with a dark secret."

Frank Scheck of the Hollywood Reporter/Reuters calls "Shrek" "a fun, largely successful musical version of the first installment of the hugely successful film franchise. Only the daunting economic climate could get in the way of this show becoming a family audience Broadway hit."

"It looks like a big, fat hit," raves Elysa Gardner of USA Today, who gives "Shrek" 3 1/2 stars. "It is the most ingeniously wacky, transcendently tasteless Broadway musical since 'The Producers,' and more family-friendly than that gag-fest."

Peter Marks of the Washington Post was not so enthusiastic: "Forget your natural scent -- the whole shebang smells. I'm talking desperate."

--Lisa Fung

Top photo: Brian d'Arcy James as Shrek.

Middle photo: Christopher Siebert, center, as Lord Farquaad.

Bottom photo: Brian d'Arcy James, Daniel Breaker and Sutton Foster.

Credit: Joan Marcus

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