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Paulanne Simmons

"Shrek The Musical"

"Shrek The Musical"
Directed by Jason Moore
Broadway Theatre
1681 Broadway (Between West 52nd and 53rd Streets)
New York, NY 10019
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons

After one children's picture book (by the prolific William Steig) and three movies, one would think the Shrek franchise was near its end. Then along comes "Shrek the Musical," and we find out it has a healthy future.

The musical has a book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire (best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning "Rabbit Hole" Fuddy Meers" and the unfortunate "High Fidelity") and music by Jeanine Tesori ("Thoroughly Modern Millie," "Caroline, or Change"). It's directed by Jason Moore, whose impressive resume includes "Avenue Q" and "Steel Magnolias"; and the cast is studded with such names as Brian d'Arcy James (Shrek), Sutton Foster (Princess Fiona) Christopher Sieber ((Lord Farquand) and Daniel Breaker (Donkey). But what really makes the show live is the magnificent staging.

And what else should anyone expect? After all, ironic and campy as it may be, this is a fairy tale. The "knight in shining armor" may be a green monster with a wisecracking donkey as his squire, the handsome prince may be a midget (whoever had the idea of getting Sieber to dance on his knees was a genius), and the princess may have her own skeletons in the closet. But evil is outwitted and love does triumph. So it's entirely appropriate that this happens in a lush and beautiful fairyland and the princess should be guarded by a ferocious dragon.

All of which is not to say that Foster is not charming and Breaker doesn't get a few good belly laughs. In fact, the production holds together quite well, even though the music, while serviceable, is certainly less than memorable.

But "Shrek," a Dreamworks Theatrical, is clearly pure entertainment designed to be a money-maker. No doubt tourists will come to New York with ticket in hand, prodded by children who have seen all three movies and are still enthusiastic about their favorite friendly monster.

But when the money is being counted, it should be remembered that the real heroes of this production are, costume and puppet designer Tim Hatley, lighting designer Hugh Vanstone, make-up designer Naomi Donne and sound designer Peter Hylenski.

Still, make no mistake, "Shrek" is certainly not for children only. One doesn't need the gravity of a Stephen Sondheim to point out the fault lines underneath our most beloved fairy tales. A light-hearted spoof will serve just as well.

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