Bubba (left) and Peter (right) Ludwig pose with Donkey from "Shrek the Musical." | Howard A. Ludwig~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 29, 2013 7:29PM
The difference between an animated ogre and a chubby man wearing a green skullcap isn’t terribly significant. At least the audience at “Shrek the Musical” seemed unable to make the distinction.
I attended the live, musical version of the 2001 film “Shrek” last weekend with The Wife, our two sons, my mother and great aunt. The 75-minute performance at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater was fantastic. Everyone enjoyed the show.
Yet I couldn’t resist comparing the live performance to the film, which I also enjoy. There were pros and cons to both shows. To appease my own curiosity, I’ve decided to offer a few side-by-side observations:
“Shrek” the movie costs $8 on DVD. An adult ticket to “Shrek the Musical” costs $25. A children’s ticket costs $18. It was also $14.45 (after validation) to park at Navy Pier, which hosts the musical.
“Shrek” the movie can be watched from the comfort of my couch or recliner. The only crying children in the audience would be those living in my house. “Shrek the Musical” can only be seen in an intimate, lakefront theater through Sept. 1.
I tend to throw on “Shrek” the movie for my two sons while I make dinner or fold laundry. “Shrek the Musical” forced all of us to watch the show together. The live performance proved more of a family activity, whereas the movie is more often used as a distraction.
“Shrek” the movie is a familiar story that’s been unchanged since its premiere in 2001. “Shrek the Musical” introduced some additional insight into these beloved characters while keeping the overall story familiar for children.
“Shrek” the movie can be paused while I go to the bathroom. Bathroom breaks during “Shrek the Musical” required an usher with a handheld flashlight to escort audience members back to their seats.
“Shrek” the movie is occasionally viewed with a bowl of microwave popcorn or perhaps some grapes from the fridge. “Shrek the Musical” offered a variety of pricey snacks and beverages in the lobby along with frivolous souvenirs.
“Shrek” the movie featured the voice of comedian Eddie Murphy as an annoying talking donkey. In “Shrek the Musical,” James Earl Jones II plays the donkey. He’s the cousin of the actor who voiced Darth Vader.
“Shrek” the movie usually ends when dinner is ready or it’s time to go to bed. “Shrek the Musical” ended by meeting several of the actors in the lobby for autographs and photos.
Both of these stories conclude with a powerful message about true beauty and the importance of looking beyond appearances. I was similarly stirred by the endings of both shows. But I only stood and clapped at the end of “Shrek the Musical.”
As I look down my list I realize that it’s silly to compare the two performances. It’s the same story, featuring the same characters. But the movie and the live musical felt very different. I enjoyed them both. There’s no point in picking a favorite.
Just like ogres and onions, my taste in entertainment also has layers.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.