Music Project: Shrek the Musical    [A–       JMS]

When my mother said that she had free tickets to see Shrek the Musical, I was a little hesitant at first.  I was worried that we would be out of place at a show designed for little children. However, those fears were completely unfounded.  The show is based on the on the movie Shrek and follows that plot exactly, though there are a few new scenes added and some from the movie removed. Thus, even if you have never seen the movie, this show is easy to follow and enjoyable. In the end, the musical is designed to give audiences the same feeling as the movie: that even ogres’ have their day.  The music in the performance was basically modern classical music; it was designed for an orchestra and the pieces were newly composed, yet did not resemble in any way the classics such as Mozart or Beethoven.  The musical took place at the Broadway Theater and I went to see it on October 6, though it started mid-December 2008 and is set to close January 3, 2010.  The audience for the musical is predominantly families with young children since the musical is geared towards young children. However, that is not to say that adults do not enjoy the play. I went with my father and my grandmother and the three of us found the show enjoyable. In fact, my grandmother, who falls asleep watching television, stayed awake through the entire performance.

The musical contained twenty songs over the course of two acts. All the songs contained narrative content, obviously to reveal the story line. The goal was for the story line to be portrayed through the melody, rhythm, harmony, tempo, and other aspects of the music. Yet the music did not always match the lyrics. Many songs had upbeat melodies, but the words were negative. In some cases one character’s lyrics matched the melody, while the other’s matched the rhythm.

Despite the fact that there were many lovely songs that I could easily analyze, I will focus on two of the pieces that stuck out the most in my mind. The songs “Travel Song” and “Donkey Pot Pie” are both from Act One, and each had one defining aspect that I remember distinctly.

“Travel Song” takes place as the characters Donkey and Shrek are, obviously, traveling. The most interesting aspect of this piece was that each character lyrics corresponded to either the melody or the rhythm. The melody of this piece was in major key and was very upbeat. The melody was meant to convey happiness and excitement, as it corresponded with Donkey’s lyrics, as he was extremely excited about the trip. In contrast, the rhythm of the piece was in minor key and very agitated. Shrek’s lyrics corresponded with the rhythm of the piece, which reflected his annoyance that he was on the trip with Donkey. Because the piece is meant to reflect the conflicting attitudes of the two characters, there is a dissonant harmony in the piece. Also, because the characters are traveling, there is a fast tempo throughout the piece. Despite Shrek not wanting to be on the trip, the tempo is still fast, as he is agitated.  This piece, when looked at in these two parts, seems entirely discordant because in telling part of the story, it encompasses two differing points of view regarding the trip. However, when one listens to the piece, the two differing views are reconciled and there is a certain harmony to the music.

The song “Donkey Pot Pie” is the first song in the entire performance that is decidedly negative, for an obvious reason. During this song, Donkey believes that the Dragon wants to eat him and thus is in a rather despondent and negative mood. This song is the first of the performance to be entirely in minor key and that is what made it stand out so clearly in my mind. The fact that it was in minor key reflected the negative mood, but it was not the only aspect of the song to do so. There was also a discordant harmony and an alternating fast and slow tempo to match the key. There was no set melody for this song and noises would constantly occur that were designed to shock and frighten the audience.  Despite this discordance, there was a set rhythm throughout the entire piece, though it did not lessen the negativity of the song. In fact, it only added to it, for it was decidedly ominous.  All this, coupled with the fact that the lyrics matched Donkey’s fear of and distaste for being eaten, led to the decidedly negative feelings imparted by the song.

It is fair to say that “Travel Song” and “Donkey Pot Pie” were my favorite songs in the entire performance. The contrast between the melody and the rhythm in “Travel Song” so closely resembled the contrast between the two characters that is was an easy piece to listen to and kept everyone entertained. The negative feelings of “Donkey Pot Pie,” which were portrayed through the key, the lack of melody, the tempo, and the discordance, were extremely successful in frightening the audience and making us fear for Donkey’s life. The qualities of these two songs kept the audience enthralled with the performance.

Overall, the entire performance of Shrek the Musical is meat to give the audience a warm feeling and a happy ending. The show starts with the audience feeling sorry for the lost little ogre named Shrek. It then proceeds to take the audience on the adventure of a lifetime, with some sadness, but mostly humor, thrown in. By the end of the performance, there is not a single spectator who has not laughed or cheered, whether it be because of Donkey’s antics, or the up beat and exciting melodies of most of the songs that stimulate and energize the audience. Without a doubt, Shrek the Musical is one of the best performances I have ever seen, and it certainly gets its message across, while giving its young viewers memories that are sure to last a lifetime. I would encourage anyone looking for a few laughs, or an exciting fairytale adventure to go and see Shrek the Musical before it closes. Remember, time is running out.