Shrek The Musical is a musical with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. It is based on the 2001 DreamWorks film Shrek and William Steig's 1990 book Shrek!. After a tryout in Seattle, the original Broadway production opened in December 2008, and closed after a run of over 12 months in January 2010. It was followed by a tour of the United States which opened in 2010. A re-vamped West End production opened in June 2011.
Production began in 2002. A reading took place on 10 August 2007, with Stephen Kramer Glickman as Shrek, Celia Keenan-Bolger as Princess Fiona, Christopher Sieber as Lord Farquaad and Robert L. Daye, Jr. as Donkey. After much development, the show made it's world premiere at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, running from 14 August to 21 September, 2008. Brian d'Arcy James took the lead role, with Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona, Sieber as Lord Farquaad, Chester Gregory as Donkey, John Tartaglia as Pinocchio and Kecia Lewis-Evans as the dragon. The premiere production was directed by Jason Moore, and featured music by Jeanine Tesori, a book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, and choreography by Josh Prince.
Broadway, New York (2008-10)
The show then set up swamp at the Broadway Theatre, with many songs and scenes re-written and changed from Seattle. At the time, it was the most expensive Broadway musical ever produced. Previews began on 8 November 2008, with an opening night of 14 December. Most of the Seattle cast remained although Gregory was replaced by Daniel Breaker in the role of Donkey, and the dragon became voiced entirely by the chorus, leaving Lewis-Evans retired. On 2 October 2009, "I'm a Believer" was added to the score and was sung at curtain call. After failing to wow the critics, the show played its final performance on 3 January 2010, after 37 preview and 441 regular performances.
US National Tour (2010-11)
Following the closure of the Broadway production, an all-new and improved show began a tour of North America, beginning at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago on 13 July 2010. Opening night took place on 25 July. Among the changes included a newly re-designed dragon (the role also returned to being voiced by one actress). A new song was also created for the dragon to sing, titled "Forever", which replaced "Donkey Pot Pie" from Broadway. The tour ended 31 July 2011 in Los Angeles.
London's West End, UK (2011-Present)
The UK premiere production in London's West End began previews at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 6 May 2011. Opening night took place on 14 June. The original cast was headlined by Nigel Lindsay as Shrek, Richard Blackwood as Donkey, Nigel Harman as Lord Farquaad and Amanda Holden as Princess Fiona. Due to pregnancy, Holden was replaced by UK pop star Kimberley Walsh in October 2011. The show was well received by critics upon its opening night, unlike its New York counterpart production.
Non-Equity Tour (2011-12)
A second tour of North America, produced by NETworks and featuring a Non-Equity cast, launched September 9, 2011, at the Capitol Theatre in Yakima, Washington. The tour official opened in Portland, Oregon on September 13. Changes made for the London production, including the new opening, will be incorporated into the tour. The NETworks tour runs through April 29, 2012, with the final show in Springfield, Missouri.
There have been various international productions which are all non-replica's of the Broadway or West End staging. Countries staging the musical are Israel (2010), Gdynia, Poland (2011-Present), Madrid, Spain (2011-Present), Paris, France (2012), Sao Paulo, Brazil (2012), Italy (2012) and the Netherlands (2012). A replica production is set to be staged in Australia by 2012.
Note: This summary follows the storyline of the revised West End production in London, United Kingdom. Certain elements differ from the Broadway and national tour stagings.
- Act I
Our story begins with an ogre named Shrek telling the audience of his childhood, and how, on his seventh birthday, his parents send him out of their house and into the world to make his living. They warn him that because of his looks, everyone will hate him, and he will not have a happy ending. Princess Fiona interrupts the story and we see into her childhood, before Shrek slams the book shut claiming a "technical hitch". Later, an embittered, hardened Shrek is living contentedly alone in a swamp ("Big Bright Beautiful World"). His solitude is disrupted when all the fairy-tale beings of the land begin showing up on his property, including Pinocchio, Peter Pan, the Big Bad Wolf, the three little pigs and Humpty Dumpty. They reveal of their exile from the Kingdom of Duloc, by order of the diminutive Lord Farquaad ("Story of My Life"). Shrek decides to travel to see Farquaad to try to regain his privacy with much encouragement from Pinocchio and the gang ("The Goodbye Song"). Along the way, Shrek reluctantly rescues a talkative Donkey from some of Farquaad's goons. Donkey insists on tagging along, making Shrek see that they are more alike than he thinks.
Meanwhile, Lord Farquaad is torturing Gingy into revealing the whereabouts of the princess he wishes to marry to become king. The cookie reveals that Princess Fiona is currently trapped in a castle surrounded by lava and guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. Farquaad rushes out to prepare for the wedding, before Gingy (who is subsequently taken to the swamp) can tell him what happens to Fiona at night. Shrek and Donkey arrive in Duloc and make their way to Farquaad's palace. Elsewhere, Farquaad performs a musical number to his people ("Welcome to Duloc" / "What's Up, Duloc?"). Shrek and Donkey approach Farquaad. Impressed with the size and appearance of the ogre, Farquaad demands that Shrek undertakes the rescue, and in return, Farquaad promises he will give Shrek back his swamp.
Shrek and Donkey set off to find the princess. As they discuss the tale of the damsel-in-distress, the story goes back to a seven-year-old Fiona, dreaming of the brave knight who, her storybooks tell her, will one day rescue her from her tower, and end her mysterious curse with "True Love's First Kiss". As she grows into a teenager, and then a headstrong woman, she becomes a little bit stir-crazy and bi-polar, but she never loses her faith in her fairy tales ("I Know It's Today"). The two unlikely friends set off to find Fiona, with Shrek becoming increasingly annoyed with the chatterbox Donkey as time progresses ("Travel Song"). After crossing the rickety old bridge and arriving at the castle, Shrek sets off alone to rescue Fiona while Donkey encounters a ferocious female Dragon who initially wants to eat him, but then wants to keep him for her own after Donkey manages to charm her ("Forever"). When Shrek finds Fiona, his lack of interest in playing out her desired, romantic rescue scene annoys her, and Shrek must drag her off by force. The two of them reunite with Donkey and all three attempt to escape while being chased by an angry Dragon. Shrek traps Dragon and they get to safe land ("This Is How A Dream Comes True"). Fiona then insists that Shrek reveal his identity and is appalled that her rescuer is an ogre and not the Prince Charming her stories indicate. Shrek explains that he is merely her champion; instead, she is to wed Lord Farquaad. The trio begins their journey back to Farquaad's palace, but Fiona becomes apprehensive as the sun begins to set. She insists that they rest for the night and that she spend the night, alone, in a nearby cave. Donkey and Shrek remain awake, and Donkey, delighted at being referred to by Fiona as a "noble steed," asks Shrek who he would be, if he did not have to be an ogre anymore. As Shrek opens up to his new friend, Fiona, transformed into an ogress, stands apart and alone in the moonlight and listens ("Who I'd Be").
- Act II
The next day, Princess Fiona rises early and sings with a bluebird and dances with a deer (before making the bird explode and throwing the deer off a cliff) and assists a Pied Piper in his rat-charming duties ("Morning Person"). Shrek brings down her mood by attempting to give subtle hints about her groom-to-be ("Men of Farquaad's stature are in short supply", "He's very good at small talk", etc.) and mocking her tragic childhood circumstances. The two begin a contest of "one-upmanship", each trying to outdo the other by revealing their respective pasts ("I Think I Got You Beat"). Both admit to being thrown out by their parents; this connection, as well as bonding over a love of disgusting bodily noises, kindles friendship.
Meanwhile, back in Duloc, Lord Farquaad plans his wedding, and he reveals his own sordid heritage after Thelonius insists that Farquaad should invite his father ("The Ballad of Farquaad"). As Shrek and Fiona's newfound camaraderie grows into love, Donkey insists, with the help of the three blind mice, that Shrek should gather his courage and romantically engage Fiona ("Make a Move"). Shrek, finally beginning to come out of his caustic, protective shell, tries to find the words to explain his feelings to Fiona ("When Words Fail").
While Shrek is out finding a flower for Fiona, Donkey discovers that Fiona turns into an ogress at night, and she confesses that she was cursed as a child, which is why she was locked away in the tower. Only a kiss from her true love will return her to her proper form. Shrek arrives near the end of the conversation and misunderstands Fiona's description of herself as an ugly beast to be referencing him. Hurt by her presumed opinion, Shrek storms off. The next day, transformed back to her human form, Fiona decides to tell Shrek about her curse ("Morning Person (reprise)"). When Fiona tries to explain, Shrek rebuffs her. During the night, Shrek was contacted by Lord Farquaad, who arrives now to claim Princess Fiona. While not very impressed with Farquaad, Fiona agrees to marry him and insists that they have the wedding before sunset. As they ride back to Duloc, Donkey tries to explain the misunderstanding to Shrek (who is too angry to listen), and Shrek rejects him as well, declaring that he will return to his swamp alone.
The fairy tale creatures, now headed for a landfill which is to be their new home, decide Farquaad's treatment of them is intolerable. Just because they are freaks does not mean they deserve to be hated. Gingy, Papa Bear, and others encourage the creatures gather new confidence and strength in themselves as they declare they will raise their "Freak Flag" high against their tormentors ("Freak Flag").
Shrek returns to his again-private swamp, but he misses Fiona. Donkey follows him back, and convinces Shrek of his friendship by forgiving the ogre for his harsh words. Shrek apologizes, and Donkey convinces him that Fiona really cares for the ogre. Both of them hurry back to Duloc. Shrek interrupts the wedding before Farquaad can kiss Fiona, and Fiona convinces him to let Shrek speak with her. Shrek finally finds the words to express his feelings for Fiona, and he declares his love for her ("Big Bright Beautiful World (reprise)"). However, his declaration of love is mocked by Lord Farquaad. Caught between love and her desire to break the curse, Fiona tries to escape the event, but the exiled fairy tale beings storm the wedding and protest their banishment. They are accompanied by a grumpy little dwarf, who is, in fact, Farquaad's father. Farquaad claimed earlier that Grumpy abandoned him in the woods as a child, but the dwarf reveals the true reason he kicked Farquaad out: He was, in fact, 28 and wouldn't move out of his basement. During the argument, the sun sets, causing Fiona to turn into an ogress in front of everyone. Farquaad, furious and disgusted over the change, orders that Shrek be killed and Fiona banished back to her tower. As Farquaad proclaims himself the new king, Shrek whistles for the Dragon (who has now escaped the castle), who crashes through the window with Donkey and destroys Lord Farquaad. Admitting their love for each other, Shrek and Fiona share a kiss. Fiona's curse is broken and she takes her true form: an ogress. At first, she is ashamed of her looks, but Shrek declares that she is still beautiful. Shrek and Fiona begin a new life together, as everyone celebrates what makes them special ("This Is Our Story"). They all live happily ever after ("I'm a Believer").
Original Broadway Cast
Note: only principal cast members with only their primary role(s) are noted.
|Brian d'Arcy James||Shrek|
|Sutton Foster||Princess Fiona|
|Christopher Sieber||Lord Farquaad|
Broadway Cast Replacements
US National Tour Cast
|Haven Burton||Princess Fiona|
|Alan Mingo, Jr.||Donkey|
|David F.M. Vaughn||Lord Farquaad|
West End Cast
|Amanda Holden||Princess Fiona|
|Nigel Harman||Lord Farquaad|
Sugar Plum Fairy
West End Cast Replacements
|Kimberley Walsh||Princess Fiona|
SoundtrackAn original cast recording featuring the Broadway show's musical numbers was released on March 24, 2009.
The Broadway production won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Costume Design (Tim Hatley).