Shrek The Musical On DVD

There is a tradition in my family that on Christmas Day, after gorging on turkey and sleeping off the Queen’s speech we settle in and watch a musical. Last year saw us take in the delights of Jesus Christ Superstar, while this year’s offering was to be Shrek. Sadly though, for a number of reasons, my Christmas became housework and DIY rather than festive cheer and fairytale stories.

Rather than just pick a evening that meant nothing to watch the musical and complete the tradition, we decided to put it off until a suitable, celebratory date could be found, and while it’s been a bit of a wait, last night – 1st March – saw me celebrate 4 years of not smoking, and an evening with a bright green Orge seemed the perfect way to mark the occasion.

Amanda Holden - Shrek The Musical

I had heard great things about the musical version of Shrek, people really rave about it, and during it’s West End run both Amanda Holden and Kimberly Walsh had played the role of Fiona, suggesting this wasn’t just a cynical spin off from a popular film. As a result, I was expecting big things from Shrek and thought I was easily in safe hands.

Sadly though, the musical has just left be somewhat bemused. I enjoyed it; but at the same time felt ashamed by it. It just doesn’t quite manage to capture the joys of the film when scrutinised. The story is there with enough reproduction that everything feels right, everything feels memorable, as it should be, but you also notice the bits that have been left out. You know what should come next, so-to-speak, and so when the musical skips on, without reference, it feels strange.

I understand why they have to leave parts out, the limitations of stage production, the time taken to transform into character, but just leaves a taste in the mouth, a sense that all is not as it should be. That you’re not getting the full story.

There can be no doubt that Shrek The Musical has been produced with a sizeable budget. The hair and make-up, for want of a more flowery term, is stunning. Shrek looks like a mirror image of his CGI self and the way they have managed to create Lord Farquaad is not only very clever but also astonishingly executed. The world into which this is set is beautiful, and in real life must take your breath away.

Lord Farquaad - Shrek The Musical

However, this isn’t real life, this is DVD and that means they can chop, cut and fade to black the footage. It’s a problem with a lot of musical DVDs. The fact that they get to pick what you see, to force you to focus on what they want you to, means that I found it very compact and nowhere near as immersive as a stage production should be. You lose the bigger picture, and you lose the little nuisances that out of focus characters perform that truly bring a stage show to life. That little look, that reaction to a song lyric.

Music is where Shrek should really shin though. The film has a soundtrack that hits a crescendo to reinforce the love tale and the story as a whole. For instance, the theme: True Loves First Kiss, nails the marriage of imagery and emotion to fit perfectly into the film, the musical just seems to lack this, everything just felt slightly flat. And even worse, those original compositions from the film, don’t feature at all. And while I can appreciate why they may want to distance themselves from the original score, and not write lyrics for much loved instrumental pieces, the music they create instead once again, feels lesser.

Fairytale Characters - Shrek The Musical

I think the problem is though the tone of this new music is just too varied. The scenes with Lord Farquaad have been twisted slightly from dark comedy to full on pantomime silliness. While Princess Fiona manages to turn as strong but naive girl into a sarcastic goof-ball. Even worse though, the group ensembles, especially with the fairytale characters, seemingly angular and sharp in their harmonies. At times appearing to be a disorganised mess.

The musical just fails to work for me. It’s almost a case of a story adapted for the stage that didn’t need to be and I think this is shown best by the fact that the film is 40 minutes shorter than the stage show and yet has more in it and a rounder story. The musical just feels one step too far, one idea to much. I said as the start of this review that I felt ashamed by the musical, and that is because all my problems, all the flaws I found in it combined to an end product that felt like a parody. A fake. Shrek The Musical reminded me too much of a counterfeit, a reproduction, the Rolex watch that looks perfect across a room but when you examine it closely, can never hide the fact the face says Rolec.

On stage, in real life, it may work great. But on DVD, stick with the film.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Stage First Edition

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