In New York, Brian d'Arcy James and Tony winner Sutton Foster starred as Shrek and Fiona, Daniel Breaker was Donkey and Christopher Sieber was Farquaad. On the road, Eric Petersen and Haven Burton play the couple, Alan Mingo Jr. is Donkey and David F.M. Vaughn is Farquaad.
While the musical's creators say they plan to keep refining, the critics' response suggests their revisions are moving in the right direction. The Chicago Tribune thought the Broadway version was "overly anxious to please," but the tour — which started in Chicago — had "discovered a human scale." In London, the Daily Mail called the show "fairy tale meets panto meets Monty Python," and the Times of London said its "magic lies in wit, character and story rather than technology."
For some playgoers, (including kids), the standard for comparison is the motion picture. Characters may be linked to their movie voices, including those of Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (Donkey) and Cameron Diaz (Fiona). Certain traits are the same — Shrek's accent is still Scottish — "but these are by no means copies," says Moore. "We have good actors who take the qualities and interpret them."
The screen "Shrek's" popularity has been a boon in at least one regard. The show's pacing, especially in the first act, was a challenge because of the amount of plot exposition, plus, Moore says, "we were working too hard to gain a connection" between ogre and audience. "We found we didn't need all that stuff. People had seen the movie. Even if they hadn't, they got the idea."
Ashford says that from scenery to storytelling, "everyone was concerned with bringing the film's subversive nature and magical moments to the stage. But we came to see we could use a different set of tools. As long as we were delivering the same emotional effect as the film we didn't need to do it exactly the same way."
The Broadway dragon, for example, may have fit a more cinematic approach, but the show's creators realized it ran the risk of overwhelming the story and the stage. So they gave the creature not only a new look but a new song designed to better dramatize her feelings.
In the end, says Ashford, "what works best are the moments that feel more like a pop-up storybook and less like a wild ride. Moments of heart and humor that make the audience want to come on board with these characters and follow them on their journey."