Why does this have to exist?
So… I like Shrek. Who doesn’t like Shrek? The ugly ogre with his wisecracking donkey and headstrong princess skyrocketed Dreamworks into popularity when it first aired with the help of its loveable characters, fart jokes, and the ultimate banger, All-Star. In all honesty, every movie in the franchise (minus Shrek The Third) is phenomenal and comes together for an empowering and hilarious franchise. Shrek isn’t just a comedy series. It’s a beautiful story about love, friendship, and self-acceptance, and many lives would not be the same without this series. It is pretty obvious why Dreamworks would try to milk as much out of this franchise as possible: Shrek is incredibly popular and its persistence in pop culture stands triumphant against everything else that has tried to compete with it. So, nine years after the original, Dreamworks decided to do the most they could to cement Shrek into history. And back in 2010, they cemented Shrek into musical history.
Shrek: The Musical is a mess. While it has its positives they are all hard to enjoy underneath a burning heap of garbage. The set designs are all expertly crafted and transport you into the world of Shrek, especially the giant puppet Dragon who took my breath away based on how visually appealing it was. The actors also all do a good job, with David F.M. Vaughn being a real standout as Farquaad. And although I don’t personally like the music and will complain about it later, I can understand why others do like it, because it has its own unique vibe that some may enjoy. With these good aspects, I can see why some people would like it. It has its own unique style and humor that some people will love, but for me, this musical was a huge miss.
The biggest problem with this show is what I call “Cash Cow Syndrome”. Cash Cow Syndrome is when a property is clearly made only for the service of money with no real urge to continue or add to/create a story. Shrek: The Musical suffers from this problem, where about 95% of the dialogue outside of the songs are the exact same jokes and lines from the original. For someone who likes Shrek, hearing the same jokes and phrases from the original feels uninspired and repetitive to the point where I almost got sick of the expertly crafted humor of the original. The characters feel like carbon copies and any new change they attempt to add to them falls flat because the musical turns Shrek into a joke. Another thing that’s a joke is the music.
If you are fans of the musicals Hamilton or Hadestown due to their beautiful lyrics and stories, and the way that each song foreshadows and crafts the story to the point where it is impossible to watch the musical without the music, you will be disappointed. Not only are most of the songs in Shrek: The Musical pointless and not necessary to the plot, the lyrics aren’t the best either. When Fiona rhymed bipolar with, “I’m a very gifted bowler” in the song “I Know It’s Today”, let’s just say I checked out lyrically. And the worst part is that this song is the best one in the musical. Not to mention the Dragon’s added song “Donkey Pot Pie” gave my sister and I rapey vibes. While the songs have a more unconventional style that fits within the Shrek universe, the songs feel churned out with no talent or thought put into the lyrics. Simply put, while I can see why people like it, the music is a no for me.
That doesn’t compare to when the musical actually tries to add unique ideas. The fairy tale creature subplot is abysmal and adds nothing of value. Pinocchio looks like he crawled from the depths of hell and no, I will not elaborate on that. Not only is it pointless, but it doesn’t even have the courtesy of being funny or having good songs. The entire time I was praying for it to be over. Not to mention that this subplot adds to the ending, with the fairy tale creatures invading Farquaad and Fiona’s marriage and completely disrupting the emotion in the scene for stupid jokes on Farquaad’s ‘daddy issues’, another new concept introduced that was a swing and a miss despite having potential. Not to mention that there is almost no development when it comes to Shrek and Fiona’s relationship. They sing a song about trauma and suddenly we are supposed to believe they love each other. None of the characters have that same chemistry present in the movie, leading to the interactions feeling much less impactful and genuine. There is nothing of value in any moment of this musical, and the ideas added only worked to worsen the experience overall.
That’s the whole musical: Shrek, but worse in every way. The characters aren’t nearly as fun or endearing (if at all), the jokes don’t land, the subplots that try to be different end up being the worst parts of the musical, and to top it all off, the songs are uncreative and tiresome. If I were to describe Shrek: The Musical, I would say it is like a peeled onion. It will make you cry in a bad way, it aged horribly, and it has no layers. I give Shrek: The Musical a 3 out of 10. Pretty bad but not excruciating enough to where it destroyed my entire existence.