Shrek the Musical: A Lesson on Assumptions


My first contact with the Shrek musical was when it was the first year that it was playing on broadway and I was visiting New York. Looking at the billboards I wondered to myself who on earth had thought a full, 3-hour musical could be made out of Shrek. It seem impossible in my mind how the animated movie could translate into the stage and compete with the quality of the other Broadway shows. Continuing with this assumption I decided not to go see the show but to choose something different that I thought better suited the Broadway aesthetic.

It wasn't until college that the musical came back to my life. I was searching around Netflix thinking what I should watch, and I stumbled upon the original cast recording. I thought to myself that I had nothing to lose if I watched it. I was already paying for Netflix and if the show was as bad as I had thought it would be then I would only have lost 3 hours of my time but not a whole Broadway ticket amount of money.

When the musical opened I immediately knew I had made the wrong assumption. The set was incredible, the costume brought to life the designs from the movie, and the music had left me speechless. As it continued I couldn't believe how much I had under appreciated this musical. Every single scenic change only emphasized how wrong at had been at my assumption.

Learning from my mistake and watching the musical several times (8 and counting), I've started to dig deeper into the show and researched about all the production that came with it. It is amazing how Tim Hatley was able to come up with such inventive ways to both show the world and the characters of Shrek with his costume and scenic design. With costumes such as Lord Farquaad's, the comedy of the film is instantly translated onstage while bringing a whole new dimension to the character itself. The set moves flawlessly from location to location creating a perfect flow in Shrek's journey. It keeps the same tone from the film but its developed in such a layered way that every element comes to life and helps the audience dig deeper into the story.

After all this whole lesson on assumptions you would think that I had learned my lesson on not to judge shows before seeing them. Sadly I can't say that is true. When I heard about the new Spongebob Squarepants Musical that Nickelodeon was developing I, once more, thought that this production had nothing to do on a theatre stage. Once again I was proven wrong when I saw the scenic and costume designs developed by David Zinn. It proved to me that any concept can be brought into a stage if there's a production team smart and creative enough to communicate their vision. Spongebob's costumes are both true to the tv show on silhouette and color, but bring a whole new layer by creating costumes that are more resembling of how Spongebob would look like if he was human. Even more, the scenic design is flawless by taking the concept of using elements that would sink to the bottom of the ocean and using the throughout the design, from proscenium to props, to create a rich environment for the story to be told; again keeping the essential elements from the tv show.

So once again I'm reminded to not judge a production simply by its subject matter. There's amazingly creative minds out there whose imagination can bring to life these beautiful productions. The only thing I can do now is hope to have learned my lesson and hope that one day I'll have the honor of working with such creative minds and to be able to follow their footsteps.

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