The Setup: Shrek: The Musical has a stupendous pedigree: the 2001 mega hit cartoon, itself based upon the kiddie-lit hit by William Steig. The musical's strong book and lyrics are from Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, Fuddy Meers, Wonder of the World), and the serviceable, yet bouncy, pop score is by Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie; Caroline, or Change).
The Execution: Could someone please tell me why this appealingly entertaining musical was a bust on Broadway?
It ran a year, but even that was way off DreamWorks' predictions of another prayed-for blockbuster like Disney's Lion King or Stephen Schwartz's Wicked. Yes, the whole thing's no classic, but it's so delightfully silly and thoroughly adorable that this has to be the best show for kids since ... well, since Lion King and Wicked. The touring production is surprisingly spectacular, with Tim Hatley's cutout storybook sets and his fanciful Tony Award-winning costumes a colorful crazy quilt. Little Lord Farquaad (David F.M. Vaughn) -- and I mean little, all three feet of him -- is quite an eyeful, and the green prosthetics for ogre Shrek (Eric Petersen) look just like they do in the movie. The nose of Pinocchio (Blakely Slaybaugh) grows whenever he lies and the dancing rats of the Pied Piper are a sheer joy, but our favorite Gingy (Aymee Garcia) is underbaked for the stage version. Nobody can match the peerless Eddie Murphy as motor-mouth Donkey, but Alan Mingo, Jr. makes a kid-friendly, energetic wise-ass in the musical's watered-down version.
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The Verdict: Think of this as a "greatest hits:" all your favorite toon bits are here, rendered more goofy because they're live. The kids around me had a roaring time with the farting and belching competition song between Shrek and Princess Fiona (Haven Burton). I did, too. So will you.
(Through October 31. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby, 800-982-2787.)