Monday, November 18, 2013

Shrek: The Musical – Deluxe Edition Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
shrek bdThe greatest fairy tale never told comes to life as never before in DreamWorks’ Shrek The Musical, the highly acclaimed Broadway production based on the smash-hit movie.  Featuring a fantastic 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. Now you can bring the magic of Broadway to your home and get the best seat in the house the show that received eight 2009 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, winning Best Costume Design of a Musical (Tim Hatley) and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Musical Show Album as well.


Film (4 out of 5 stars) 

Based on on the successful Shrek film franchise, this Broadway musical translates far better on the stage than you’d think it would, but it also carries with it the film’s strengths and weaknesses.   You might think that with every adaption, the story would be watered down with each iteration, as the films were adapted from William Steig’s book and now this new musical adapts the film, but now with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, it’s a new re-imagining. After testing the play out in Seattle, this play moved to Broadway in December 2008, and ran for over a year before following up with a national tour of the United States.
Shrek The Musical received  twelve Drama Desk Award nominations and eight Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and acting awards for d’Arcy James, Foster and Sieber. The Broadway production of the show received a total of twelve Drama Desk Award nominations as well as eight Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and acting awards for d’Arcy James, Foster and Sieber.  Brian d’Arcy James did win the rama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and the musical also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design and Costume Design for Tim Hatley.  At an estimated $25 million, Shrek The Musical is one of the most expensive musicals ever to open on Broadway and this Blu-ray was recorded live with the original Broadway cast before the show closed.
While this musical version follows the movie quite a bit,  it does offer more of a backstory for both Shrek and Fiona than the film did.  We see how Shrek is sent out into a harsh world at the age of seven by his parents who want him to make his own way in a world that hates ogres.  We see him transition to becoming an older more bitter Shrek who lives in isolation in a swamp  (“Big Bright Beautiful World”) until that solitude is interrupted by a bunch of fairy-tale creatures make his swamp their home after being kicked out of the Kingdom of Dulac by Lord Farquaad (“Story of My Life”).  Desiring to be to rid of the creatures from his swamp, Shrek journeys to Dulac to talk to Farquaad about the creatures with the encouragement of Pinocchio and the others (“The Goodbye Song”).  Along the way, Shrek reluctantly rescues Donkey from Farquaad’s men just because he doesn’t like bullies and Donkey is so grateful that he starts to follow Shrek (“Don’t Let Me Go”).
In Dulac, the diminutive and evil Farquaad uses the Magic Mirror to help determine which princess he can marry so he can be king.   He ends up picking Princess Fiona, a princess that is trapped in a castle tower surrounded by lava and guarded by a dragon.  Being a complete coward, he takes advantage of Shrek’s arrival to offer him a deal – if Shrek rescues the princess and brings her to Farquaad to be married, he will give Shrek the deed to his swamp so Shrek can get rid of the fairy-tale squatters.  It’s then that the Magic Mirror shows us Fiona’s backstory, where we see a seven year old Fiona dreaming of being rescued by a gallant knight who will end the curse that’s been place on her with “True Love’s First Kiss.”  Time progresses and we see Fiona as a teenager and then as a woman who still believes that every day will be the day that she will be rescued (“I Know It’s Today”).
Of course, Shrek and Donkey do manage to rescue Fiona and despite their differences, both Shrek and Fiona start to bond though neither will admit it as they both believe that they had a harder life than the other one.  Comparing their pasts, (“I Think I Got You Beat”) makes them both realize that they are more similar than different and the prospect of Fiona marrying Farquaad becomes more unappealing to them.  Farquaad, on the other hand can’t wait for the wedding despite the event bringing up bad memories from his past with his father (“The Ballad of Farquaad”).  Since neither Shrek or Fiona will admit their feelings for each other, Donkey takes it upon himself to play matchmaker between the two (“Make a Move”).  The final resolution of the play includes many of the tropes you’d expect – a misunderstanding based on an overheard out of context conversation, a transformation that reveals that inner beauty is just as attractive as outer, and the concept that love conquers all.
Shrek The Musical turned out a lot better than I expected and there’s a lot to like about it.  The sets and costumes are all first rate and the actors chosen for their roles, especially Brian d’Arcy James as Shrek, Sutton Foster as Fiona, and Christopher Sieber as Lord Farquaad are all excellent in their portrayals.  Foster in particular is allowed to show how versatile she is as an actress, as she sings, dances, and handles the comedy and drama of her role well.  Siebler is a lot of fun to watch as Farquaad since he really seems to be enjoying himself in the role.  To achieve the small stature of Farquaad, Siebler has to do their entire musical on his knees which had to be hard to do, but he does it with grace and after awhile, you don’t even notice it anymore.   Brian d’Arcy is also good as Shrek, but it’s kind of a one note role and he’s there mainly to support the other characters. This is a faithful adaption of the film, as the subversive humor from the film is still intact which is a good thing, and it’s present in the dialogue and in the songs.  Onthe other hand, the annoying characters from the film (Gingy and Pinocchio) are equally annoying here, so you have to take the good with the bad.

Video (4 out of 5 stars) 

This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer looks especially good when you consider that filming live plays usually never works out as it’s just too difficult with the various lighting set ups and the hard to capture angles of the stage.  This transfer looks the best during close ups which really show off the exceptional detail of the costumes, makeup, and the sets. During wide shots, the level of details drops a bit thanks to the lighting but this is still the best transfer of a play to a film that I’ve seen.  I was very surprised to see just how much coverage was included in this presentation.  Colors look vibrant and the black levels are suitably dark as well. 

Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Shrek the Musical‘s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix has both high and low moments.  For most of the running time, the mix sounds great and offers some impressive clarity.  But at the same time, at a couple of points the acoustics within the hall becomes overbearing with excessive reverb. When that happens, the sound becomes distorted but fortunately it doesn’t last long.  The dialogue is clear and easy to understand and the musical numbers for the most part come across very well with the exception of the final number “I’m a Believer,” which fares the worst of the bunch.

Extras (2 out of 5 stars) 

There’s not much here as far as extras go, but both of these are in high definition.
  • Shrek the Musical Songbook with Sing-Along - This is collection of songs presented jukebox style along with subtitles for those that want the karaoke experience.
  • From Swamp to Stage: The Making of Shrek the Musical - Cameron Diaz hosts this overview of the transition from the movie to the play and there’s also snippets of footage that includes the actors and their rehearsal of the play.  Personally, I would have preferred less Cameron Diaz and more footage that showed how the play was put together and more comments from the cast and crew.

Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This Blu-ray is a great way to see the show and it’s probably the most ideal way as well since you can see the cast up close and don’t have to pay a fortune to buy tickets to see the play.  The Blu-ray offers some excellent video and audio quality but the extras could have been a lot more extensive and better.  If you missed this musical on Broadway or during their national tour, then you should pick this Blu-ray up because it’s basically bringing the Broadway experience to your living room.
Order your copy today!
shrek bd

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