“Shrek the Musical” features music written by Jeanine Tesori, who’s credits include “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Violet,” and “Fun Home,” and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, who’s credits include “Ripcord,” “Kimberly Akimbo,” and “Fuddy Meers.” Together, they weave a musical tapestry of rich emotion that perfectly juxtaposes the sarcastic script (also written by Lindsay-Abaire, by the way). Shrek opens the musical with “Big Bright Beautiful World,” a thunderous ballad that insists on delusional positivity in the face of crushing loneliness. It sets him up for other numbers, like “Who I’d Be,” the Act One finale, where he waxes poetic about the life he’d live if he weren’t hated by the world.
Every main character gets a number or two just like these, where their identities and their wants are on full display. Donkey (not so) jokingly pleads with Shrek in “Don’t Let Me Go,” begging him to be his friend. Fiona bares her unyielding adamance in “I Know it’s Today,” a musical montage that covers her entire life within the tower. Even Farquaad gets dig into his backstory with “The Ballad of Farquaad,” which balances his inherent douchebaggery with a legitimately depressing childhood.
Tie it all together with big ensemble numbers led by Pinocchio and Gingy, like “Story of My Life” and “Freak Flag,” and you get a phenomenal track list. Seriously, I cannot overstate how good these songs are. Feeling silly? Try “I Think I Got You Beat,” where Shrek and Fiona bicker about who had the worst childhood. Feeling nostalgic? The musical ends with a Broadway certified rendition of “I’m A Believer,” just like the movie. And, hey, if you feel yourself getting misty eyed, you can just blame it on the onions.