"Shrek" isn't dreck. But neither is it a very good musical.
The non-Equity touring version of the 2008 Broadway show, which continues through tonight at the Saroyan Theatre, is nicely staged -- vastly stripped down from the original $20-plus million production, of course -- and competently performed. Kids will get a big kick out of the show-stopping 30-foot dragon operated by four cast members. The villain, Lord Farquaad, gets in some good laughs, many of which stem from the ingenious way his short stature is depicted on stage. And the relationship between the ogre Shrek and the uptight Princess Fiona adds some warmth once it gets going.
But in terms of musical theater, this production didn't appeal much to me either musically or emotionally. It's too brash and relentless, with the easy-going and meandering charm of the original movie replaced by a mad-dash comic sensibility that often tries too hard. While I should have walked away from the show with its sweet message of all-inclusiveness, burnished with the unlikely love story between a pair of smelly green beings, instead my dominant impression was that of a screechy Pinocchio caterwauling his way onto my list of All-Time Most Annoying Stage Characters.