'Shrek The Musical' tells the story of a swamp-dwelling ogre who goes on a life-changing adventure to reclaim the deed to his land. Joined by a wise-cracking donkey, this unlikely hero fights a fearsome dragon, rescues a feisty princess and learns that real friendship and true love aren't only found in fairy tales.
Featuring a fantasic score of 17 all-new songs, 'Shrek The Musical' was filmed on stage to capture the magic of a Broadway performance and stars an amazing celebrated cast including Brian d'Arcy James (Shrek), Sutton Foster (Fiona), Daniel Breaker (Donkey), Christopher Sieber (Lord Farquaad), and John Tartaglia (Pinocchio). The film was shot live on Broadway with 10 cameras and directed by Michael Warren.
Having a wife who's actively involved in theatre – acting, directing, stage managing etc. – I'm probably subjected to more theatre than most non-"theatre geeks." I've seen plenty of stage plays to know that recorded versions of productions are awful in comparison – but 'Shrek the Musical' is an exception. It builds upon everything great from the first 'Shrek' film, and adds a bunch of new fantastic content and a great deal of grandiose musical numbers.
I didn't know exactly how much of Shrek's four-movie story would be covered in 'Shrek the Musical.' Much to my surprise, it only covers the first film - from beginning to end. A lord with "small-man syndrome" is trying to clean up his castle. The tyrannical Lord Farquaad has banished all of the local fairytale characters from his city of Duloc. He's sent them to the most unpleasant place around – a mostly vacant swamp. When the large group of "freaks" is forced into the swamp by the knights, the swamp's only inhabitant is pushed out. Shrek, the well-known grumpy green ogre, isn't thrilled about his new neighbors, so he heads to Duloc to get Farquaad to move them elsewhere.
Along the way, Shrek's one-man mission is encroached upon by another stinky magical creature – an annoying talking (and singing) donkey named Donkey. Once he and his unlikely companion get to Duloc, the tiny Lord Farquaad promises to grant Shrek his wish if Shrek will rescue a damsel in distress. Princess Fiona has been stuck in a dragon-protected tower for many years. Her foretold fairytale ending says that she'll be rescued by a valiant prince that will marry her, only Shrek's no prince and the plan is to bring her back to Duloc to marry Farquaad.
As the title suggests, 'Shrek the Musical' is absolutely loaded with song and dance, much of which is catchy, funny, and entertaining. The performers bring the iconic characters from the 'Shrek' films to life perfectly. Shrek is just as likeable as ever; Fiona is actually more entertaining than her CG Cameron Diaz-voiced counterpart; Donkey is energetically animated and extremely flamboyant; and the Lord Farquaad is flat-out brilliant. John Lithgow's vocal performance of Farquaad in 'Shrek' was great, but the Farquaad of 'The Musical' is even better. Through special effects, he's made to be just as small as his animated character, and it's a hilarious visual gag that never gets old.
If you enjoy both 'Shrek' and musicals, then there's no reason you won't enjoy 'Shrek the Musical.' My daughters, who are well-versed in all things Shrek, actually prefer 'The Musical' over the animated classic. They ask to watch it daily and even pushed us to get them the original Broadway recording of the soundtrack – which they do listen to daily.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox has given 'Shrek the Musical' a combo pack that includes the production on a Region A BD-50, a DVD and redeemable codes for both a Digital Copy and an Ultraviolet copy. The discs and code are housed in a standard blue two-disc Elite keepcase that slides vertically into a glossy cardboard slipcase. Strangely, the artwork from the cover and slipcase features an image of the animated Shrek, not the live-action theatrical Shrek. Several videos play when you insert the disc – a Fox vanity reel and trailers for 'Turbo,' 'The Croods' and 'Epic' - but all are skippable.
'Shrek the Musical' arrives on Blu-ray with a sleek 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Being a live recording, I expected it to have a 1080i encoding, so it's an extra treat to have 1080p. While the footage is comprised from loads of camera angles at various distances from the stage, our angles aren't always close enough to highlight the transfer's finer details, but they're there. All close-distance shots reveal the porous details in Shrek's headpiece, the texture of costume, the furry feel of Donkey's coat, etc. You can even see the textural difference between Shrek's head and the screen-like covering hiding the actor's ear holes. But, like real theatre, we aren't always close enough to see the production's great details.
Black levels are great. Colors are mostly vibrant and natural, the exception being when wildly bright stage lighting causes certain colorful objects to appear overly saturated. All details are stripped in those several instances.
Luckily, 'Shrek the Musical' was filmed in a manner that ignored the audience – meaning, the filmmakers didn't care about cranes and cameras obstructing the audience's view. The switch-up and cinematic take on play-filming keeps the Blu-ray experience from getting boring. The video quality benefits from the style because it offers details and shots much better than the static wide-angle ones from most other theatrically filmed productions.
'Shrek the Musical' has been given a decent 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that's fitting for a filmed stage production. Just as if we were viewing the show live, the majority of the sound heard isn't mixed from around the theater. A few sequences call for dynamic effects mixing, but most of the show does not. Most effects are plain and simple and the sounds that would be creatively used during the show are equally mixed in the Blu-ray.
The music, recorded from an orchestral pit below the stage, is consistently well-spread throughout all the channels so that the space becomes lit up during the many lively songs. Solo performances typically emit from the front, but choral pieces play through all speakers. The crowd's cheers and laughs are spread throughout the channels to make you feel as if you're sitting in the middle of the audience. Overall, it's a very effective use of making a theatrical experience possible from the comfort of your home.
The only special features in this release are exclusive to the Blu-ray.
If you enjoyed the 'Shrek' franchise (when it was at its peak) and like a good musical, then there's absolutely no reason why you won't enjoy 'Shrek the Musical.' It takes the beloved story from the first animated film and infuses loads of additional jokes/gags and plenty of great song-and-dance numbers. Be prepared to have several of the big songs stuck in your head. The filming style of this theatrical performance is a step above most recorded stage shows because they don't hesitate place the camera in the very best position for a scene – even if it impedes the view of the live audience. The shoot never gets stagnant because of this decision. It even offers up some great shots that reveal the elaborate costumes and make-up. Although lacking in special features, 'Shrek the Musical' is pure entertainment for the whole family – no matter how many times you've seen the original films. If you love Shrek, then give it a shot.