Set in a mythical “once upon a time” sort of land, Shrek the Musical is the story of a hulking green ogre who, after being mocked and feared his entire life by anything that crosses his path, retreats to an ugly green swamp to exist in happy isolation. Suddenly, a gang of homeless fairy-tale characters (Pinocchio, Cinderella, the Three Pigs, you name it) raid his sanctuary, saying they’ve been evicted by the vertically challenged Lord Farquaad. So Shrek strikes a deal: I’ll get your homes back, if you give me my home back! But when Shrek and Farquaad meet, the Lord strikes a deal of his own: He’ll give the fairy-tale characters their homes back, if Shrek rescues Princess Fiona. Shrek obliges, yet finds something appealing–something strange and different–about this pretty princess. He likes her. A lot. But why does she always run off when the sun sets?
In Shrek, the prince isn’t charming, the princess isn’t a damsel in distress, the sidekick isn’t wanted, and the hero is an ogre. At times, our ideas of worth are driven by how we imagine life would be in a fairytale. Shrek, thankfully, turns those ideas upside down and shakes us awake from our traditional make-believe dreams.
Although Shrek seems a children’s story at first glance, it is a prime example of how our preconceived notions of beauty can be misguided. Even the seemingly oddest people can be those that have the most beautiful character within. In Shrek, we are reminded that everybody needs some companionship, especially when we feel withdrawn from the world. The road toward self acceptance can be a rocky one, and we must battle our own negative self image to discover where our true spirit and inner beauty lie. Well written stories entertain us and address the many complex dimensions of human nature. As an audience, we are able to project ourselves upon the characters and consider what kind of people we really want to be. This is our story and in many ways we are just like the characters in Shrek. It’s refreshing to have an entertaining reminder in our hectic lives.