The 2009 Broadway season boasted shows loaded with GLBT sensibilities: tap-dancing British boys, naked flower children, and, yes, even mothers throwing silverware and singing about being bipolar. However, the best of the best was Shrek The Musical. It touts one of the cleverest, funniest and most inventive scores to come along in a great while. Shrek shines as a beacon, not just for the GLBT community, but also for anyone anywhere who has ever been made to feel less than they are simply because they're different.
The book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire (a wordsmith to keep an eye on) remind children of all ages that “what makes us special makes a strong” in the tune “Freak Flag”, a song which soars to the level of a pride anthem in which Pinocchio (John Tartaglia) cries “I'm wood, I'm good, get used to it!” Jeanine Tesori's musical score is inspired and runs a gamut of musical genres, with stellar orchestrations by Danny Troob and vocal arrangements by Tesori and Tim Viel. The cast does full justice to the brilliantly ridiculous material, with a breakout performance by Brian D'arcy James in the title role. Sutton Foster sparkles as Princess Fiona, especially in the song “I Know It's Today” in which she sings an inspired trio with her “younger selves.” And Christopher Sieber is a comical joy as Lord Farquaad. In an ever-increasing line of movie-to-musical shows, Shrek delivers the goods time and again and should stand as a model for the genre.
Honorable “Dearie” mentions go to the Tony Award winning revival of the surprisingly enduring hippie musical Hair and to the highly entertaining and sorely underrated 9 to 5 The Musical. Though not as polished as Shrek, Dolly Parton's freshman musical theater score boasts very singable and well-crafted songs, which bode well for her next proposed foray into musical theater: a show based on her life story. Parton is hopeful that Broadway diva (and Movie Dearest favorite) Kristin Chenoweth, will play the lead in the show.
National tours are planned for both Shrek and 9 to 5 and hopefully will be coming soon to a city near you. In the meantime, both shows' Original Cast Recordingsare available on CD. So, on your next road trip (possibly to some pride festival far-far away) have a great sing-along with one of these highly enjoyable new recordings and maybe even let your own freak flag fly!
By James Jaeger, Los Angeles based actor and resident television critic of Movie Dearest.