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Originally published January 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 17, 2008 at 9:46 AM

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Musical "Shrek" to debut in Seattle

A green, grumpy, wildly popular ogre will sing and dance on a Seattle stage this summer on his way to Broadway. Shrek, the star of the blockbuster...

Seattle Times theater critic

Ticket sales

"Shrek the Musical" is set to play Aug. 14-Sept. 21 at the 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., Seattle, before moving to Broadway in November. Tickets will be available as part of a 5th Avenue season subscription starting Feb. 4, when the full season's lineup will be announced. Individual "Shrek" tickets will go on sale June 13. Prices have not been announced. Find more information at www.5thavenue.org.

Seattle to Broadway

"Shrek the Musical" is the latest Broadway-bound musical-theater production to start in Seattle. Others:

"Young Frankenstein," Paramount Theatre, 2007

"The Wedding Singer," 5th Avenue Theatre, 2006

"The Light in the Piazza," Intiman Theatre, 2003

"Hairspray," 5th Avenue Theatre, 2002

A green, grumpy, wildly popular ogre will sing and dance on a Seattle stage this summer on his way to Broadway.

Shrek, the star of the blockbuster animated movies, will appear in a new musical set to premiere at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre Aug. 14-Sept. 21, before moving to New York in November.

The first such venture by DreamWorks, "Shrek the Musical" could set up a new Broadway rivalry, going toe to toe with Disney musicals drawn from that company's animated films.

Bill Damaschke, president of DreamWorks Theatricals, said the company chose Seattle for the world premiere because "that audience is used to looking at new work, and they're not pushovers. We wanted an audience that will actually help us develop the show."

The new musical is based on the original 2001 "Shrek" film, drawn from characters in William Steig's beloved storybook.

Stage realizations of hugely profitable family movies — including Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King" — have generated big ticket sales, long Broadway runs and world tours. But the formula doesn't always win praise.

"Disney's The Little Mermaid" just opened on Broadway to largely negative reviews. And one of the creative challenges facing "Shrek the Musical" is how to bring alive such fanciful creatures as Shrek — the benign ogre who, with his sidekick Donkey, saves his land from an evil lord and rescues a lovely princess from a terrible fate.

Damaschke said the production offers "a huge challenge, because the story has humans and creatures and animals, which were all different scales and sizes in the film."

But stage and screen director Sam Mendes, the catalyst for "Shrek the Musical," believed it could be done.

"We didn't have an ambition to develop our properties into theater pieces," Damaschke said in a phone interview. "But Sam pitched the idea in 2003 and we started a very long development process."

With Mendes consulting, "Shrek the Musical" is being concocted by a team of "fresh, young voices in theater," said Damaschke, whose DreamWorks post was created in November. "It's not meant to be a literal translation of the film. We're looking at doing really innovative and interesting things, in a theatrical way."

Another challenge is that the movie "Shrek" was not a musical, and it was a mere 80 minutes long. The longer stage version will include material from Steig's 1990 "Shrek!" children's book that was not in the film.

The score will be composed by Jeanine Tesori ("Caroline, Or Change"); Pulitzer Prize-honored playwright David Lindsay-Abaire is writing the book and lyrics; and Jason Moore ("Avenue Q") is directing.

"This has the potential to be a great musical," said David Armstrong, artistic head of the 5th Avenue Theatre, which has hosted premieres of the Broadway musicals "Hairspray" and "The Wedding Singer."

He said DreamWorks has not revealed the price tag for mounting the show, but "it costs $15 million to do an average Broadway musical, and I'm sure this figure will be quite a bit larger."

Ticket prices and casting are yet to be announced.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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