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Theatre / Shrek: The Musical

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Shrek The Musical (music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire) is an adaptation of the DreamWorks Animation film Shrek as a stage musical. It opened on Broadway in 2008 after a trial run in Seattle. Multiple touring and international productions followed, and it is now available for independent productions.

A professional recording of the original Broadway production is available on DVD and Amazon.

Shrek The Musical provides examples for the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Species Change:
    • The movie's Lord Farquaad was simply a diminutive human; in the musical, he's half-dwarf.
    • The little Duloc dolls who greet Shrek and Donkey were originally animatronics, blatantly parodying Disney's "it's a small world". The show portrays them as fully-sized humans dressed like dolls.
  • Adaptational Wimp: While he isn't much of a badass in the film either, here, Lord Farquaad is portrayed as a Sissy Villain with Manchild tendencies.
  • Adaptation Amalgamation: Based on the first movie but starts the same as William Steig's original book, with Shrek's parents kicking him out of the house.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The extra half-hour that the film didn't have is used to elaborate on the backstories of Shrek, Fiona, and Farquaad, as well as give more focus to the Fairytale Creatures as characters.
    • Fiona's time in the tower is expanded on and we see how it's affected her outlook, namely why it makes her so eager to marry the first prince who comes. It also shows how being locked in a little room for twenty years can result in slight Sanity Slippage.
    • Shrek's cynicism comes from a harsh life of learning that ogres are the biggest recipients of Fantastic Racism out there and having his dreams of maybe getting to be a hero crushed by that harsh life. The first song also explains how he was raised and came to his swamp home.
    • Dragon doesn't really like her job, feeling she's essentially Fiona's babysitter and hating how no one will ever want to rescue her instead of the classically beautiful princess, explaining why Donkey's flirting works so well.
    • Farquaad's short stature and Fantastic Racism turns out to be because he's actually Grumpy's son.
    • The Fairytale Creatures realize that their natural way of dealing with problems (wait until a hero solves it for them) won't work this time and that they need to stand up for themselves. More specifically, Pinocchio has to accept the fact that he's a wooden boy, and that he doesn't need to be a real boy in order to be said hero.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Robin Hood and his Merry Men (which is ironic, since they actually had a musical number in the film).
    • While the Magic Mirror did appear in the Broadway show, he was cut out of the script for the revised version. The scene has Gingy inform Farquaad about Fiona instead.
  • Age Cut: Both Shrek and Fiona get this:
    • "Big Bright Beautiful World" goes from young Shrek finding his swamp, to adult Shrek breaking out of his outhouse. The song also shifts from his parents singing about how much his life will suck, to him singing about how much he doesn't care.
    • "I Know It's Today" has Young Fiona walk behind the tower, and Teen Fiona emerges. Then Teen Fiona walks behind the tower, and Adult Fiona emerges.
  • Age Lift: Peter Pan was unquestionably a boy in the first Shrek, but here, he's a 34-year-old Manchild "who needs to shave".
  • Age-Progression Song: "I Know It's Today" serves as this, with the first verse sung by Young Fiona, the second sung by Teen Fiona, and the third sung by Adult Fiona.
  • All There in the Manual: The Fairytale Creatures get a surprising amount of characterization, sometimes even a little backstory, in the behind-the-scenes webisodes and their individual profiles on the (now defunct) "Shrekster" website, most of which isn't given in the show itself.
    • The Broadway ProShot is missing the song "Forever" because it replaced the original song "Donkey Pot Pie" between the original Broadway run and the U.S. tour. The song contains a lot of Dragon's motivations (she's annoyed that she's a glorified babysitter and no one will ever want to rescue her) and the reason Donkey becomes attracted to her (in stating that Fiona's not his type, he declares he "likes a big, big girl"). These songs were released as singles after after the Broadway production closed.
  • Ambiguously Gay: From the sassy Donkey, to the prissy Farquaad, to the entire pride-anthem vibe of "Freak Flag", the musical is full of this trope.
    Pinocchio: I'm wood. I'm good. Get used to it!
  • Anthropomorphic Shift: Donkey, being portrayed by a live actor in costume, went from the quadruped Talking Animal he was in the films to an upright biped wearing a vest, at least in early productions. Inverted in later incarnations as the clothes were removed and he began walking in a torso-first fashion with his forelegs held up - a stance more like that of a real quadrupedal animal on its hind legs.
  • Arc Words: "A big, bright beautiful world." It finds its way (with its music and everything) into about half the songs.
  • The Artifact:
    • From the Broadway proshot: the line "But it's not a choice you make, it's just how you were hatched" is usually sung by Humpty Dumpty. However, the actress who normally plays Humpty plays a different character in this performance (Tweedledum), yet still sings the lyric as written, consequently losing the egg pun.
    • "I smell like sauerkraut!" was originally a line written for the Gnome, but in the filmed version, it's sung by (of all characters) the Mad Hatter, who replaces the Gnome.
    • The 2023 UK tour completely removes Farquaad's short stature, and all the jokes with it. However, it still retains the subplot regarding his father Grumpy, which was written specifically to explain the character's height.
  • Ascended Extra: All of the Fairytale Creatures ensemble to an extent, but especially Pinocchio.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: Any struggles you could think of with Fiona being locked in one little room of the tower are lovingly spelled out in her verse of "I Think I Got You Beat", making it clear she was more a prisoner than anything. Sanity Slippage from isolation and boredom, minimal creature comforts (including needing to boil her chamberpot since she had no toilet), not much headroom when she grew taller... She even admits that it's a good thing the walls were padded.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: A plot point with the Dragon, oddly enough—in both versions of her song ("Donkey Pot Pie" and "Forever"), she laments that she's always overlooked in favor of the more traditionally beautiful Fiona. Donkey tries to charm her into letting him go by revealing that he actually likes big ladies, which prompts Dragon to believe he's flirting with her and fall in love with him. In some productions, the point is emphasized by having Dragon be represented by an attractive plus-sized actress as well as a puppet.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Lord Faarquard is half dwarf, but commits genocide against fairytale creatures.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the revised version, the still-living prisoners of Dragon tell Donkey the reason they weren't incinerated is that she keeps them around to sing backup.
  • BSoD Song: "Build a Wall" consists of Shrek planning to build a ten-foot wall to keep the world out after being convinced that Fiona and Donkey have betrayed him. While much of the song comes off more angry and sarcastic than depressed, the rage is at least partly Shrek's way of keeping his devastation under wraps.
  • Burping Contest: Shrek and Fiona bond over one (with a fart contest as well) during "I Think I Got You Beat".
  • Call-Forward: Puss in Boots makes a quick cameo during "Travel Song".
  • Canon Foreigner:
  • Canon Immigrant: Shrek's parents, who appeared in the William Steig book that the films were based on, make a brief appearance in the show's prologue.
  • Casting Gag: The casting of John Tartaglia, a famous Broadway puppeteer, as Pinocchio, a puppet.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Fiona does this during "This Is How A Dream Comes True" when Shrek doesn't rescue her the way she imagined being rescued.
    Fiona: This is how I pictured it
    More or less I must admit
  • Composite Character:
    • The Angry Mob that Shrek scares away in the film is combined with Farquaad's knights in the show.
    • In the revised version that is performed in every production following the Broadway version, Gingy is the one who informs Farquaad about Fiona, not the Magic Mirror.
  • Costume Porn: Bringing fairy-tale creatures to life requires it.
  • Counterpoint Duet:
    • Shrek and Donkey during "Travel Song".
    • Shrek and Fiona during "I Think I Got You Beat".
    • All three sing a Counterpoint Trio at the end of "Who I'd Be" (which also counts as a Distant Duet since Fiona is separate from Shrek and Donkey).
  • Crowd Song:
    • "Story of My Life" introduces the various exiled Fairytale Creatures.
    • "What's Up, Duloc?" promotes Lord Farquaad and his "plan with seven phases" for Duloc.
    • "Donkey Pot Pie" is sung by Dragon's three singers, Donkey, and the remains of Dragon's previous victims.
    • "Freak Flag" is the Misfit Mobilization Moment for the Fairytale Creatures.
  • The Dead Can Dance: During "Donkey Pot Pie" the skeletal remains of Dragon's previous victims dance around Donkey.
  • Demoted to Extra: Dragon's role in the musical had shifted quite a bit throughout the show's history. In the tryout version, her role was significantly larger compared to the first film, due to her romance with Donkey being much more established and fleshed out. Once the show hit Broadway, however, the scenes that helped develop their relationship were cut, and Dragon's stage time was reduced to the "Donkey Pot Pie" number, the chase sequence, and the scene where she bursts into the chapel to incinerate Farquaad.note  Afterwards, the character disappears before the finale. The show's current script, however, gives her a much more sizable role (not to the extent of the Seattle tryout, but not nearly as small as the Broadway iteration's).
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Dragon ranting about how princes are only interested in the more classically attractive Fiona and no one thinks that she might be waiting for someone too sounds an awful lot like a frustrated girl who doesn't fit the regular mold of beauty. The fact that she instantly falls in love with Donkey after he tells her Fiona isn't his type and he goes for big girls enhances the metaphor.
    • "Freak Flag" has a bit of a LGBT pride element to it, especially with Pinocchio's closing message of "I'm wood, I'm good, get used to it!"
  • Duet Bonding: Shrek and Fiona during "I Think I Got You Beat".
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Puss in Boots, the Iconic Sequel Character from the film series, is given a quick cameo during "Travel Song,” as do Fiona’s parents, King Harold and Queen Lillian, in “Big, Bright, Beautiful World.” That being said, there’s currently no Shrek 2 musical.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Farquaad really cranks up his hammy tendencies, with a generous dose of campy flair added for good measure.
  • Evil Stole My Faith: One of Shrek's lines in "I've Got You Beat" implies this about him. He describes narrowly escaping getting lynched by an angry mob, and wondering afterwards "whether ogres even go to heaven".
  • Fantastic Aesop: "Freak Flag" starts out with your typical Be Yourself message, but it kind of gets derailed halfway through.
    Pinocchio: We may be freaks, but we're freaks with teeth and claws and magic wands...and together, we can stand up to Farquaad!
    Humpty-Dumpty: We've got magic! We've got power!
    Who are they to say we're wrong?
    All the things that make us special
    Are the things that make us strong!
  • Fat Admirer: Donkey, as it turns out, as he sets the record straight during the song "Forever".
  • Female Monster Surprise: As in the original, Donkey discovers that Dragon is female, and accidentally seduces her.
  • For the Evulz: According to his Ballad (see below), Farquaad plans on total domination "with some torture, just for fun!"
  • Freudian Excuse: Lord Farquaad's backstory is delivered in "The Ballad of Farquaad" about his mother that died when he was young and his distant father that left him alone in the woods when he was younger. Subverted later when it turns out that his past wasn't as hopeless as he made it out to be.
    Farquaad: Well, maybe if you hadn't abandoned me in the woods!
    Grumpy: Abandoned you?! You were twenty-eight! And living in my basement!
  • Gasshole: Shrek and Fiona have a farting and burping contest.
  • Gender Flip: The Three Blind Mice are females in the musical, while in the films they're males.
    • To a lesser extent, Gingy. While the character is presumably still male like in the films, he's traditionally played by a female actor who carries him around like a puppet. The role definitely calls for a girl's voice to sing those notes.
  • Give Me a Sign: From "Travel Song":
    Shrek: Why me? Why me?
    A simple answer would be fine
    Won't someone please send me a sign?

    Donkey: Oh look, a sign! Yunita Pal Avenue straight ahead!
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Lord Farquaad dances alongside the rest of the cast during "I'm a Believer".
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Fiona in the musical is... a little eccentric due to being alone in her tower for years.
    Fiona: On the walls the days were added
    Luckily those walls were padded
  • Grade System Snark: Shrek gives Fiona one in "I Think I Got You Beat."
    Shrek: I've heard better, I'm just sayin'
    A for effort, thanks for playing
    Sad to see a princess suffer
    But I had it rougher.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Farquaad is half-dwarf.
  • Has a Type: Donkey professes an interest in big beautiful women when trying to convince Dragon to let him go. It works a little too well.
  • I'm Not Doing That Again: Shrek's initial reaction when Fiona tells him that there is no door, and they'll have to go down the same way he came up.
    Shrek: What do you mean there's no door? How do we get down?
    Fiona: Why, the same way you got up?
    Shrek: The same way I—?! Oh come on! I just—!
  • Irrelevant Act Opener: "Morning Person" recreates a funny bit from the movie, and lets Fiona tap-dance with the Pied Piper and the rats, but is otherwise irrelevant.
  • I Want My Mommy!: Darkly parodied with Dragon and Donkey before the song "Donkey Pot Pie":
    Dragon: What's your name, pumpkin?
    Donkey: Mommy!
    Dragon: What a coincidence! (referring to a skeleton in her lair) That was his name too! And his! And his! And his! AND HIS!
  • "I Want" Song: Several characters have them:
    • Fiona's "I Know It's Today", where she longs for a prince to come rescue her, just like the princesses depicted in her storybooks.
    • Dragon's part of "Forever", where she laments being Fiona's "glorified babysitter", constantly disturbed by would-be-heroes who see her only as an obstacle instead of another lady who'd like to be rescued.
    • Shrek's "Who I'd Be", where he reveals his desire to be a "semi-dashing" hero, or a daring viking, or a poet.
  • Late to the Punchline: Upon arriving to Farquaad's castle, Shrek makes the Compensating for Something joke from the film, which receives a blank stare from Donkey. But then a bit later, in the middle of the "Travel Song", Donkey suddenly breaks out laughing, saying he just got it.
  • Love Epiphany: Shrek realizes Fiona loves him in "When Words Fail" after he considers two possible ways to confess and flounders both attempts, but finishes with how Fiona will take his hand, smile and understand.
  • Madness Mantra: Fiona's lament in "I Know It's Today":
    Fiona: And the waiting, the waiting, the waiting, the waiting,
    The waiiiiitiiiiiing!
  • Manchild: Peter Pan.
    Peter: Maybe if we all close our eyes and clap really hard!
    Pinocchio: Oh, grow up!
    Peter: I won't grow up!
    Pinocchio: You're thirty-four and need a shave!
    • Farquaad has shades of this, but avoids fully committing to the trope. He gets distracted in the bath, calls his father "daddy" and is incredibly petty. His own description of his backstory (that he was kicked out as a child) and his father's version (that he was twenty eight) indicates he may have been a full-blown Manchild before becoming ruler of Duloc.
  • Misery Poker: In "I Think I Got You Beat", Shrek and Fiona sing about how bad each of their lives has been.
    Fiona: Okay top this. I missed my prom.
    Shrek: My dad and mom sent me away, it was my birthday.
    Fiona: I was sent away on Christmas Eve. Haha!
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: The Fairytale Creatures all decide to band together and actually fight against Farquaad's rule during "Freak Flag."
  • Moment Killer: Farquaad rudely interrupts the "Big Bright Beautiful World" reprise not once, but twice. The first time, he whispers "Awkward!" in the middle of the song, and at the end, he lets out an obnoxious (if not hilarious) "BOOOOOOOO!"
  • Mood-Swinger: Fiona seems "a bit bi-polar" during "I Know It's Today".
  • Motion Capture: How the Magic Mirror's face was portrayed on the stage.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Puss in Boots has a quick cameo in "Travel Song", and Donkey comments that he's never met a cat wearing boots before (a nod to their eventual friendship).
    • The song "Make a Move" is clearly inspired by Otis Redding's cover of "Try a Little Tenderness", which Donkey briefly sings in the movie.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The commercial for the Blu-Ray/DVD release adds a lot of canned audience reactions to the show clips. Perhaps the most jarring edit is the addition of laughter after Shrek’s line, “You were expecting Prince Charming?”, a moment that isn’t meant to be funny.
  • Precision F-Strike: After the Unusual Euphemism below, Pinocchio ends the song "Story of My Life" with an exclamation of "Crap!"
  • Same Character, But Different: The Fairy Godmother makes an appearance, but she is not the villainous one from Shrek 2, despite their visual similarities.
  • Sanity Slippage: Fiona has a moment of this in "I Know It's Today" from waiting to be rescued from a small room in a tower for over twenty years.
    Fiona: And the waiting, the waiting, the waiting, the waiting,
    The waiiiiitiiiiiing!
  • Sassy Black Woman: Dragon's singing voice sounds like one.
  • Scenery Porn: Swamps, forests, castles, towers, lakes of lava, etc.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: It's a musical adaptation of the first Shrek film (and the first one to be based on a DreamWorks animated feature).
  • Setting Introduction Song: "Big Bright Beautiful World" introduces Shrek and Fiona (and their parents), and explains the role of an Ogre in this fairy-tale world.
  • Shout-Out: To several other Broadway musicals.
    • At the end of the reprise for "What's Up, Duloc?", Lord Farquaad "levitates" to the top of his castle and imitates the iconic "Defying Gravity" riff from Wicked. He even sings "And no-ones gonna bring me down!" while the rear lights even shine a bright green accompanying him nailing the final battle cry.
    • During "Story of My Life":
    • In Seattle tryouts, "Story of My Life" was not included. Instead, there was a song which served as an extended A Chorus Line reference in which the fairy tale creatures "audition" before Farquaad, who is offstage beyond the fourth wall a la Zach in A Chorus Line. The Broadway version arguably kept this element in the choreography.
    • At the end of "Forever", Dragon holds a note and takes a deep breath before finishing the song, similar to the end of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls.
    • In more recent productions of the show, there's a visual gag during "Freak Flag" where one of the fairy tale creatures waves a large flag in the background, an obvious reference to Les Misérables. The flag even sports a picture of Pinocchio drawn to look like Cosette.
    • It's a common gag for Lord Farquaad to give his white horse different names in every performance. During one show, he blatantly calls it "Reference to the Second Movie".
    • Giraffe and gazelle puppets make a brief appearance during "Travel Song", complete with a parody of the opening chant from "Circle of Life".
    • During the show's tryout performances in Seattle, one of the fairy tale creatures, the Wicked Witch, mentions selling her memoirs to Stephen Schwartz.
    • When Pinocchio tells Peter Pan to grow up, the latter replies, "I won't grow up!"
    • During "I Know It's Today":
  • Sissy Villain: Farquaad is played as this.
  • Solo Duet: In "I Know It's Today", Adult Fiona sings a Solo Trio with the child and teenage versions of herself.
  • The Song Before the Storm: "Freak Flag" is the Misfit Mobilization Moment when the Fairytale Creatures decide to band together and actually fight against Farquaad's rule.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the movie Mama Bear gets turned into a bear rug by Lord Farquaad but in the musical she a main character and survives till the end.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Duloc under Farquaad's rule is well on its way to becoming this before he's dispatched. Donkey even lampshades it early on, saying that the whole place is "going Stepford."
  • Suddenly Speaking: In the movie, Dragon is silent. In the musical adaptation, she even got a song.
  • Summon Backup Dancers: Fiona usually summons the dancing rats with the Pied Piper's flute in "Morning Person".
  • Tally Marks on the Prison Wall: In the "I Think I Got You Beat" song, Fiona mentions having done this while being locked away in the tower.
    Fiona: On the walls the days were added / Luckily those walls were padded!
  • Terms of Endangerment: Dragon does this with Donkey in the dialogue leading up to "Donkey Pot Pie", introducing herself by bellowing "Hello gorgeous!" and calling him by flirty pet names like "pumpkin" whilst threatening to eat him.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: During "Build a Wall", Shrek declares that he's going to be the monster everyone expects him to be:
    Shrek: I'm gonna be what they want.
    I'm gonna be what they say
    Hey world, I'll do it your way!
    You're looking for a monster, it's your lucky day
    I'll be what you want!
  • The Something Song: "Travel Song"
  • Title: The Adaptation: Shrek The Musical
  • Triumphant Reprise: "Big Bright Beautiful World." The first version is a cynical opening number about how it's awesome being anything but an ogre. The reprise is a tender song about how Shrek's life has become worthwhile.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    Pinocchio: Man I tell ya, sometimes bein' a fairytale creature sucks pine sap!
    • Later, "Mother Hubbard!" is exclaimed in place of a certain other, specific swear.
  • Villain Song: Lord Farquaad gets two:
    • "What's Up, Duloc?" is a crowd song about how great he is and how he's rid Duloc of non-human "freaks".
    • "The Ballad of Farquaad" details his backstory and his supposed Freudian Excuse.
    • Dragon's song (either "Forever" or "Donkey Pot Pie" depending on the version) starts as a villain song, but changes to a Love Song after Donkey seduces her.
  • Vocal Dissonance:
    • The dainty-looking Sugar Plum Fairy speaks with a very deep, throaty voice.
    • In several of the YouTube clips of the show, Dragon's singing voice is fairly high and jazzy.
  • Voice of the Legion: In the Broadway production, Dragon is voiced by an entire female ensemble, evoking this trope. They even vocalize in harmony to represent her roars. In subsequent productions, she is voiced by a soloist.
  • Welcoming Song: "Welcome to Duloc/What's Up, Duloc?", the first part of the song being ripped straight from the original film.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?:
    • "Freak Flag", in which the Fairytale Creatures learn to embrace their fantastical eccentricities.
    • Weirdly, Donkey uses this to save himself from Dragon, pointing out that he's a donkey, not a knight, and therefore shouldn't be considered a threat. Then he accidentally seduces her.
  • World of Ham: The entire cast!


Video Example(s):


I Think I Got You Beat

In "Shrek the Musical," Shrek and Fiona both think they have one-up on each other when it comes to having had a horrible, awful life, culminating with Shrek telling Fiona that his parents sent away on his birthday, only for her to reply that she was sent away on Christmas Eve.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / MiseryPoker

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