Given Disney’s major success on Broadway with such properties as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, it comes as no surprise that Dreamworks Animation wanted to take a shot at stab at this potential goldmine with one of its own film successes, Shrek. Shrek the Musical opened at the Broadway Theatre on November 8, 2008 and closed a little more than a year later, after 441 performances. The show received fairly positive reviews and scored eight Tony Award nominations, winning for Best Costume Design. Clearly, the show had some merit. The problem: at a whopping $25 million to produce, it was simply too expensive, virtually guaranteeing investors wouldn’t make their money back.

Revised and scaled back for touring, an October 2009 performance was recorded for this Blu-ray and DVD. For Broadway fans who live far away from the Big Apple, access to a performance like this—the scaled back show ran 715 performances—is a real treat, offering a little taste of the Great White Way. We even get a helicopter shot of New York City followed by a shot of the exterior, then interior of the theater where it was playing, giving you the sense of what it might have been like to be there, sitting in the audience.

Many are familiar with the basic story: In order to become king, the vertically challenged Lord Farquaad (Christopher Sieber) procures the help of the green ogre Shrek (Brian d’Arcy James) to rescue Princess Fiona (Sutton Foster) trapped in a castle surrounded by lava and guarded by a fire-breathing dragon so he can marry her. Aiding Shrek in this quest is the motormouthed Donkey (Daniel Breaker). Though Shrek isn’t particularly interested in making friends, he and the Donkey do form a unique bond. Upon meeting Fiona, the green ogre finds himself developing romantic feelings for the princess, though he knows she is promised to another.

While some dialogue from the original film has been removed, twenty-one musical numbers—with lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori–-have been added, giving each character an introductory song. “Big, Bright Beautiful World” and “Story of My Life” introduces us to Pinocchio (John Tartaglia), his entourage and Shrek himself. Given the fact that nearly all the players are wearing heavy costumes or makeup, they all deserve kudos for being able to sing their guts out.

Generally though, while Shrek the Musical is undeniably colorful, big, and loud, there’s very little joy to be found.  Some elements from the film just don’t translate well. One of the biggest flops is the attempt to make the obviously fake legs of Farquaad provide running jokes that are just annoyingly stupid. Thankfully, Brian d’Arcy James’ Shrek doesn’t try to ape Mike Myers, but there’s a distinct difference between Shrek’s Brogue speaking voice and James’ big, powerful singing voice. As talented as James obviously is, the distinct difference is off putting here.

Despite the criticisms, Shrek the Musical is far from a stinker. It’s got color, some good tunes and energy to spare. Fans of the animated film and musicals might do well to check this one out, it’s better than a lot of what passes for live-action movies these days.

Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer sports excellent sharpness and rich color across the board. Skin tones look natural and consistent, while Black levels are wonderful; never sacrificing shadow detail.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix places the viewer right in the center of things, with the orchestra nicely reverberating on all sides. Voices, speaking or singing, emanate nicely from the center channel with an effective bass presence when needed.

English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are available.

The following extras are included:

  • Shrek the Musical Songbook (HD): allows the viewer to jump to seven different musical sequences in the show. There are sing along lyrics provided for six of them.
  • From Swamp to Stage: The Making of Shrek the Musical (HD, 8:06) features Fiona from the film, Cameron Diaz, taking a look at how Shrek was adapted into a musical.
  • DVD
  • Digital Copy: the code is inside the case.