Shrek The Musical: 10 Changes from Screen to Stage
The franchise Shrek has withstood the test of time, still popular almost 20 years after the first film's original release. The films are known for their stellar casts, hilarious jokes, great music, and lovable characters. The first movie is loosely adapted from a fairytale book, making many changes to create the story many know and love.
With it's never-dwindling popularity, it makes sense that Shrek would see another evolution. In 2002,the development for Shrek the Musical began. The musical went through several changes before landing on Broadway in 2008. The plot of the musical is heavily based on the first movie in the franchise, but there were some changes that occurred when translating the film for the stage.
Several of the characters from the movie made their way into the musical, but that doesn't mean they all stayed the same. The Three Blind Mice in the movie were changed from being 3 older men to 3 young women. The mice featured in the musical have style and energy, singing together as a trio.
They are flashy divas, a far cry from their original appearance in the film. The role of the Gingerbread Man, although still a man, is played by a female puppeteer, as the notes required to sing in his high voice usually require a female.
9 Referencing Other Musicals
Another aspect of the Shrek movie was it's cultural references, especially to other Disney movies. In Shrek the Musical, they referenced this by deciding to include aspects of other popular musicals.
Through lines, notes, staging, and props, clear references are made to popular shows. Some of these shows include the ever-popular Wicked, the classic Les Miserables, Disney's The Lion King, A Chorus Line, and more!
8 New Songs
While this seems a given for a musical, it's worth noting due to the popularity of the Shrek soundtrack. It would have been very easy for the musical to rely on the popular music used in the original films. Instead, an entire soundtrack was created to match the musical. That doesn't mean all of the music from the movie is absent, though.
The song "Welcome to Duloc" from the movie is included in the song "What's Up, Duloc", which adds to the original version. Much like the movie, the musical ends with a high-energy rock performance of Smash Mouth's hit "I'm a Believer", featuring all of the characters from the movie and encouraging the audience to stand up and dance along.
7 No Robin Hood
In the movie, one of the only scenes where a character begins to sing a full song in the middle of the movie is when Robin Hood appears. He jumps out in the middle of the woods with his Merry Men and tries to whisk Fiona away, claiming she needs rescuing from Shrek. When she asks who he is, he launches into a full musical number, singing with backup dancing from his Merry Men. Fiona eventually tires of this performance and kicks him in the head.
This leads into a full fight scene with the Merry Men where Fiona unleashes some impressive skills. A scene like this would seemingly translate extremely well into the musical, but for some reason, it was left out.
6 Young Fiona
In the movie, we first meet Fiona as an adult. In the musical, this changes. Fiona is shown at three different stages of her life. First as a young child, cheerful and optimistic. Then as a teenager, hopeful but becoming a bit cynical.
Finally, we meet the adult Fiona who is lovably quirky and a bit unhinged from all of her time living alone in a tower - which is to be expected. The song "I Know It's Today" takes audiences through her mindset at three different times in her life as she spends years waiting for her prince to arrive.
5 Young Shrek
Like Fiona, Shrek is introduced as an adult in the movie and a kid in the musical. In fact, the musical opens up with a scene that is equal parts funny and sad. A young Shrek is shown with his parents who begin to sing the song "Big Bright Beautiful World" to him. In this song, they tell Shrek that as it is his 7th birthday, it is time for him to leave home and go live on his own.
Before he parts, they give him some advice. This advice tells Shrek to hide away from the world because he's ugly and different, and the world doesn't like those things. Adding this backstory certainly contributes to Shrek's disdain with the world around him and his desire for peace and quiet.
4 Rough Living Conditions
In the movie Shrek, Fiona has many differences from a traditional princess but in other ways, she seems just as pampered and privileged as the rest. While we don't see much of her tower in the movie, what is seen looks lavish. There is an oriental rug on the floor, elegant drapes over the windows, and an impressive vanity.
In the musical, Fiona's living conditions were much harder. In the song "I think I Got You Beat," she makes it very clear that she had the bare necessities in her tower. These include an "army cot, hot plate, and a chamber pot". That's right, musical Fiona doesn't even have a bathroom! It seems like the movie version of Fiona had a lot more cushy lifestyle, even if she was still trapped in a tower.
3 Fairytale Creatures Revolt
In the original movie, Shrek and Donkey plan to interrupt Fiona's wedding to Farquaad with only the help of Dragon. Until Dragon busts in and saves Shrek, he seems like he stands little chance against the guards and citizens of Duloc.
In the musical, Shrek is not alone. He enlists the help of his fairytale friends and together, they interrupt the wedding and make things hard for Farquaad.
2 Farquaad's Lineage
In the movie, little is known about Lord Farquaad's past. While his height is the subject of many jokes, there is no understanding of why he is the way he is. This is another change as the musical gives Farquaad an entire backstory.
In the song "The Ballad of Farquaad", an exceptionally clever song which includes many music jokes and puns, it is revealed that Farquaad's parents are non-other than the princess from The Princess and the Pea and Grumpy from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. When his mother died from falling off the pile of mattresses, his father became grumpy and abandoned Farquaad in the woods. Grumpy even makes an appearance during the wedding scene to scold Farquaad for his treatment of fairytale creatures.
1 Fairytale Creatures
In the movie, very few fairytale creatures are developed. Aside from the well-known Gingerbread Man torture scene, the fairytale creatures in the movie mainly serve as a plot device, providing our hero with his call to action. In the musical, this strong ensemble becomes very nuanced. Each character has their own backstory and distinct personality.
These creatures and their struggle is a highlight of the musical. They are characters preparing for a revolution, loving themselves and preparing to show the world why they deserve to be respected.