Going Beyond the Script
SHREK: THE MUSICAL Backdrops and Scenery Perspectives
written by: Melanie Simmons
In an age of lovable antiheroes and self-saving warrior princesses, there is no story quite like Shrek. Shrek originally burst onto movie screens 2001 as a Dreamworks animated feature. This off-kilter story, featuring a repulsive ogre as the main protagonist and a princess with an ugly secret of her own, quickly became a box office sensation. With two movie sequels, TV series, video games and record-setting revenue in sales worldwide, it was only a matter of time before Shrek got the Broadway treatment.
Writer David Lindsay-Abaire and director Jason Moore began developing the musical version of Shrek in 2002. They were joined by songwriter Jeanine Tesori in 2004. After years of development, Shrek: The Musical opened December 2008. The production featured a star-studded cast, fun characters, accessible music and – like its movie counterpart – humor for children and adults alike. Shrek: The Musical quickly became a fan favorite. Now it’s available for licensing and there is no better time bring this modern fairytale favorite to your own stage!
Opening Scenes – The Swamp
A grand entrance is a fabulous way to set the tone for any show, so TheatreWorld has commissioned a brand-new Shrek’s Main Drape backdrop. It’s perfect for greeting your audiences. Combine with scattered lighting and perhaps some branches covered with moss, which you can drape artfully around the house seating and/or balcony to create the sense that your audience is sitting in Shrek’s swamp. Add some swampy background audio to really draw audiences into the story, even before the curtain goes up.
Our story begins with little Shrek, age 7, getting banished from the family bog by his loving parents. As he sets out on his own, his ears ring with tales of the “Big Bright Beautiful World” that he is destined to never be a part of. Young Shrek finds his own little miserable swamp and settles down to a happy life of boggy isolation.
The most prominent part of staging this story is, of course, the swamp. Shrek’s swamp is a big part of his personality, so go ahead and give this setting as much flair as you can! TheatreWorld offers an excellent rendition, specifically designed for this show. The lush green colors of this drop would nicely contrast the Foggy Forest Daybreak backdrop from the opening. Furthermore, you can use lighting to transition this swamp package from the swamp of Shrek’s gloomy childhood to Shrek’s adult home. Set pieces and viney drapery could add depth and dimension to this backdrop, transforming the entire stage into a boggy, swampy enclave.
Shrek’s blissful solitude is quickly interrupted when a host of fairy tale characters, booted from their homes by Farquaad, arrive. With nowhere else to go, they beg Shrek for sanctuary. Naturally, he refuses, swearing instead to find this Farquaad and rectify the situation immediately so he can have his comfy swamp back. Not long after Shrek sets out on this quest, he runs across Donkey, who is running from Farquaad’s henchmen. Donkey convinces Shrek that he needs help finding the Kingdom of Duloc, and, despite Shrek’s protestations, joins the ogre on his journey.
The Quest Begins – Farquaad and Fiona’s Castle Interiors
Inside his castle in Duloc, Lord Farquaad himself, in all his diminutive glory, tortures a broken Gingerbread Man. Farquaad demands to know the whereabouts of a princess whom he can marry in order to become a real king. His Magic Mirror runs through Farquaad’s options, showing him various unmarried royalty. Farquaad settles on the maiden who seems the easiest to acquire, Princess Fiona. He’s unwilling to do any of the work himself, though, so he decides to find a flunky to do the difficult part: defeating the dragon that guards her.
This Castle Chambers backdrop would be a great way to introduce Lord Farquaad. It’s got all the majestic details befitting a royal. Furthermore, the bold colors and architecture would contrast nicely with the green, messy swamp.
Meanwhile, we meet Fiona as she waits through years spent alone in her guarded castle. TheatreWorld has several great fairytale princess castle backdrops. This Medieval Castle Balcony backdrop, for example, is open and airy. (The exact opposite of Shrek’s swamp.) The color palate is similar to the Castle Chambers backdrop, which parallels the fact that – at this point in the story – Fiona and Farquaad are destined for each other.
This Fantasy Castle Towers backdrop would be another excellent option. Its pink-capped white towers entwined by enormous vines easily suggest a lovely princess trapped by fate. The soaring towers would look great in the background as Fiona sings “I Know It’s Today” and dreams of escape.
TheatreWorld has an expansive array of castle backdrops that would work here. This Princess Castle backdrop, for example, has a classic, feminine look. TheatreWorld’s Fairy Tale Castle backdrop, on the other hand, is hedged in by darkly twisting branches. (Again suggesting a fair maiden imprisoned by magic.)
You can also use set pieces to create Fiona’s castle prison, in which case this Feathered Fairy Tale Sky backdrop would make an excellent background. The expansive sky, painted with wispy clouds in pastel hues, would nicely compliment Fiona’s wishing and dreaming of her prince-to-be, the knight-in-shining-armor savior that she’s been compiling in her imagination after years of reading her fairy tale books.
This Four Seasons Terrace backdrop would be another creative way to represent Fiona’s prison. Each window shows a different season, hinting at the magic that surrounds her. The subtle implication of seasons passing would also nicely underscore her years of longing and waiting for rescue.
Shrek and Donkey arrive at Lord Farquaad’s castle, where they are greeted by an assortment of gleeful minions. Lord Farquaad is holding a festival to pick the person who will have the “honor” of rescuing the Princess Fiona for him. When Shrek and Donkey barge onto the scene, Farquaad, ever the opportunist, sends them on their new quest. In exchange, he agrees to sign over the deed of the swamp to Shrek, who can return to his isolated life in peace.
TheatreWorld’s Duloc Castle Exterior backdrop is another drop that was specifically designed for this show. It would be an excellent choice for this scene. The forced-perspective height of the looming walls hilariously contrasts with Lord Farquaad’s own short stature.
Questing – The Journey Out
Determined to get this side-quest finished as quickly as possible, Shrek and Donkey set off into the forest. Donkey valiantly tries to make friends, leading Shrek to explain to Donkey the differences between ogres and… well, anyone or anything else. Donkey tries to pass the time with a “Travel Song”, much to Shrek’s annoyance.
Before long, Shrek and Donkey find themselves in peril. As the two cross over a pit of lava, Donkey bonds with his new friend. (Despite Shrek’s best attempts to the contrary.) He doesn’t have long to celebrate, however. Immediately, the two buddies find themselves confronting the guardian dragon herself.
TheatreWorld offers several options for backdrops that will enhance the dragon scene. Our Dragon’s Lair backdrop and Dragon’s Lair Graystone backdrop are two versions of the same image that are available in both cool and warm color palates. The barred gate and looming pillars easily suggest that this lair is located underneath Fiona’s castle prison. Choose whichever coloring compliments the artistic direction of your production to create your own unique take on this dramatic moment.
If you prefer to use set pieces to tell Shrek’s story, this vivid Fire Sky backdrop, with its open, yet incendiary feel, would enhance the set.
Thinking quickly, Donkey manages to charm the dragoness, who quickly falls in love with him. Meanwhile, Shrek is free to find Fiona, who is astonished to finally meet her dashing knight. She sings him instructions on how this scene is supposed to go. (Of course, Shrek bungles everything badly.) Despite Fiona’s reservations, Shrek and Donkey manage to actually save her from peril and set her free.
Once free, Fiona insists that Shrek remove his helmet. Begrudgingly, Shrek complies, revealing that he’s an ogre. Fiona is taken aback, thinking her “Happily Ever After” dreams are ruined. However, Shrek assures her that he is simply there to deliver her to her true intended, Lord Farquaad. As sunset falls, Fiona storms off into the forest.
Donkey and Shrek pass the night sorting through their recent experiences. Donkey dreams of their future, but Shrek sets the record straight, hurting Donkey’s feelings. Shrek explains the truth of his nature and why he needs to be alone. Donkey prods Shrek to reveal his secret dreams of being a hero, which he believes will never come true.
Unseen in the woods, Fiona joins his song and we see that, in the moonlight, she, too, becomes an ogre. This Night Sky Harvest Moon backdrop, combined with forest set pieces and branches draped with foliage, would be an excellent backdrop for this scene. Fiona’s curse, after all, is tied to the night and the looming moon would underscore her dilemma nicely.
The Quest Back to Duloc
The sun rises, and Fiona is back to her fair and slender self. She charms the woodland creatures with her morning song and a fantastic dance break. This Tranquil Woods Sunrise backdrop would contrast the darker, swampy backdrops from Act One and would be a cheerful accompaniment to Fiona’s big number!
As the trio sets out for Duloc, Shrek and Donkey tease Fiona with jokes about her future husband. Fiona and Shrek soon find themselves competing over who had a worse childhood. Before long, they realize they have more in common than they first realized. Donkey watches in semi-horror as Shrek and Fiona walk off into the woods, far fonder of each other than when they first met.
TheatreWorld’s Sunkissed Blue Sky backdrop would work well here. The open sky and bright sun offer a nice change from the gloomy swamps and stifling castle walls we’ve seen so far. It suggests a day where anything can happen, even something as unlikely as blossoming feelings between a princess and an ogre!
The Quest Concludes – Duloc
Back at his castle in Duloc, Farquaad receives word that Fiona is on her way and eagerly plans for her arrival. He reflects on his own unpleasant childhood. You could use this simple Stone Wall backdrop to show the bleakness of Farquaad’s youth. Furthermore, it would coordinate well with the earlier Castle Interior drop.
Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey arrive outside the castle just as sun dips low. Faced with meeting her true fiancé and conflicted over her growing feelings for Shrek, Fiona comes up with an excuse to camp for one more night. Donkey considers the obvious problem – that Shrek and Fiona are falling in love – and attempts some matchmaking. In the process, he discovers Fiona’s ghastly secret – by night, she’s a green ogre, until true love breaks the curse she is under. TheatreWorld’s Enchanted Ruin in the Forest, with its crumbling stone wall and column, would underscore Fiona’s dilemma. It would also highlight what she stands to lose by not fulfilling her duty as a princess.
Alternatively, this Wood Cottage backdrop could also provide a last-minute hideaway as Shrek and Fiona, with the help of the hapless Donkey, try to sort out their problems.
Shrek summons the courage to reveal his feelings to Fiona, but his words fail him when he accidentally overhears her describing her hideous, ogre self… and thinks she’s talking about him. Crushed, he abandons his feelings and another night passes.
Upon daybreak, Fiona reflects on how different real life is from her dreams of rescue and true love. Shrek begins a bitter argument, but before it can pick up steam, Farquaad appears and presents himself to his “love”. Fiona can barely hide her surprise at his stature, but plays her part to the hilt, thinking Shrek hates her anyway. They plan to wed that same day.
Donkey tries to set things right, but Shrek explodes and storms back to his beloved swamp – alone.
The fairy tale characters, who have been evicted from Shrek’s swamp, return and sing about their woes. They decide to go back to Duloc and win back their homes. Meanwhile, Donkey tries to move into a corner of the swamp and Shrek starts yet another fight. Donkey’s indefatigable personality unearths Shrek’s real issues, however, and they quickly mend their friendship. Galvanized by knowing Fiona’s secret and true feelings, Shrek runs off to stop the wedding.
TheatreWorld has several options for a castle wedding. This Baroque Cathedral Interior backdrop offers bold colors and broad sweeping lines, perfect for a looming ceremony that Fiona has come to dread.
For a more airy, fairy tale feeling, TheatreWorld’s Saint Patrick’s Cathedral backdrop is a perfect choice. The high ceilings, combined with rows and rows of solid pews, make an imposing a backdrop for these ill-fated nuptials.
Shrek arrives just in time to interrupt the hasty wedding. Farquaad immediately tries to expel him, but Fiona wants to hear what the ogre has to say. Finally, Shrek finds the courage to speak his heart. Farquaad finds the whole thing laughable, but Fiona’s heart melts. The wedding grinds to a halt as the fairy tale creatures invade, adding their own chaos to the scene. They come armed with Farquaad’s dwarven father and Farquaad’s plans quickly unravel.
Meanwhile, the sun sets and Fiona’s curse overcomes her. At last, she is revealed for the ogre she is. Farquaad attempts to claim his kingship anyway, but Donkey saves the day with the help of his besotted dragon. Shrek and Fiona declare their love for each other and share true love’s kiss, setting Fiona free to be… the ogre she was always meant to be! Now, in true love’s form, Fiona and Shrek are free to start their happy ending together in the swamp, where they live nastily ever after!
This Daisies and Flowered Grass backdrop, header, and legs set, with two variations on the main drop, is a creative design perfect for this unique show. No other Broadway musical ends with a karaoke version of “I’m a Believer”, performed by the entire cast and crew – go all out and use this colorful, flowery scene to help bring the house down!
TheatreWorld has a passion for providing top-quality drops for productions of every size, scope, and vision. This particular show is one of our favorites. With its fun characters and playful twists on classic fairy tales, we’re sure Shrek: the Musical will become one of your favorites in no time as well. We’d love to help you bring it to life. Contact us today to build your show package that perfectly suits your vision and give your audiences a production they’ll never forget!