Preview: ‘Shrek The Musical,’ from film to song-and-dance
By ben fulton
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Feb 23 2013 01:01AM
Musicals born of prior incarnations tend to get a bad rap in the world of authentic musical theater. The origin matters not.
"The Addams Family" will forever be remembered as the television series, not the spirited musical. "American Idiot" is the 2004 studio album by punk band Green Day, not the 2009 rock opera.
Perry Sook, the actor playing the lead role in "Shrek the Musical," is having none of that. For him, Shrek is much more than the loveable green ogre nudged from the cherished solitude of his swamp and into true love. Shrek, says Sook, is also one of the great creations of musical theater, on par with Sky Masterson of "Guys and Dolls" and Jean Valjean of "Les Misérables."
"Shrek is a superstar," Sook said by phone, while riding the tour bus to Sioux City, Iowa. "Everyone knows him. There are very few roles out there with that kind of name recognition. He’s ageless, really."
And at 21 years old, Sook is young enough to remember the character’s original glory days from the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film. He saw all four in the film series franchise, but the musical tackles the plot-line of the first most closely, with 19 songs and extra character back-story to boot. The musical’s third national tour, featuring all the original sets from the Broadway version, opens Feb. 26 at Salt Lake City’s Capitol Theatre, playing through March 3.
"To call it a kids’ musical is not a fair description," Sook said. "There are jokes for everyone, some of which will go over the top of younger heads and have adults laughing."
That said, the musical retains all the charm of the film, and then some. All the characters are here, including the talk-happy Donkey, a Princess Fiona whose fairy-tale expectations need adjustment, and the pint-size Lord Farquaad and the intimidating dragon. The plot’s anti-fairy tale within a fairy tale, accented by the presence of Pinocchio and buttressed by its allegorical message of "beautiful isn’t always pretty," are served with piping hot song and dance.
Central to the soundtrack is "Freak Flag," the scene where Shrek and Princess Fiona accomplish the bulk of their romantic bonding and which showcases the lyric central to the story: "What makes you special makes you strong." That message is driven home in the musical’s difficult, but nonetheless magical scene, where the conventions of the fairy-tale kiss are turned inside out.
"The characters come to a more realistic ending," said Whitney Winfield, who plays Princess Fiona. "They [the musical’s characters] follow their hearts, not the guidelines of what a fairy-tale ought to be."
That kind of stage magic has costs, never more so when you’re depicting an animated character. Sook gains 72 pounds every time he dons the complete stage garb for the lead character. Sixty-five pounds is the weight of the costume with the remainder, thick green make-up, tipping the scale at seven pounds.
"It’s a lot of extra weight and heat, but worth it for the authenticity of the character," he said. "It’s a very fine line we all walk. This ["Shrek!"] is the second-largest animated film franchise in the world. Audiences have their own expectations. At the same time you also want to make the character something of your own."