Shrek The Musical

“Bring everyone to Duloc because this musical is something you could see ogre and ogre again"

Twenty two years after the original Dreamworks film debuted, Shrek The Musical is once again heading out around the United Kingdom on a nationwide tour. The family favourite film turned musical has seen numerous productions around the world, originally debuting on Broadway.

Shrek, an angry bitter ogre is seen as ugly and scary by fellow villagers due to his large, green hulk like features and stature. Based mainly on the initial film and the book by William Steig, Shrek and Donkey endeavour to complete their quest of defeating the dragon and saving Princess Fiona. Lord Farquaad sets Shrek upon his mission in the hope he will return with the Princess in order for him to become king.

For fans of the film the musical is everything you would want and more. Shrek, played by Antony Lawrence, is still very much the outsider of the swamp and as we travel through the story his performance is multilayered. Lawrence stays true to the original character and continues the Scottish accent with the ogre we have all come to love. Keeping an accent for a two and a half hour performance as well as whilst singing is not an easy task.

Joanne Clifton’s portrayal of Fiona once again proves she is more than the Strictly Come Dancing label attached to her star casting. Having previously been cast in musicals such as The Addams Family, The Rocky Horror Show and Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek The Musical continues to showcase her perfected craft as a singer, dancer and actress. The show opens the second act with a large choreographed tap number in which Fiona and the ensemble perform. In a nod to her well known dancing history the number is high energy, fills the stage and is not too dissimilar to a number in musicals such as Anything Goes or 42nd Street throwing back to the golden era of musicals.

Casting director Jim Arnold, deserves all the plaudits for his genius casting of Lord Farquaad. Directed by Samuel Holmes, James Gillan is superb as the crazy and delusional evil dictator. The character no longer of a smaller size compared to other villagers as was in other productions, he is now camp, flamboyant and steals the show. The hilarious performance had audiences in fits of laugher with his stunning performances of numbers such as ‘What’s Up, Duloc?’ and ‘The Ballad Of Farquaad’. Laughs throughout the show are constant and while the show was regimented in a way that the audience didn’t always get the time to laugh, as the next lines were being spoken, Gillan let the audience ‘breathe’ and let us revel in our laughter.

Ensemble members play a multitude of parts from make believe story book legends to Lord Farquaad’s guards. Some even are Puppeteers and brought the magic of the dragon alive on stage during their number ‘Forever’. As this was so well done it meant  that we didn’t necessarily need to see the human actor on stage portraying the character as well.

Philip Whitcomb’s set and costume design was authentic and looked like it had been directly taken from the Dreamworks movie. Large props and clever use of projection were used for various locations of the tale such as Shrek’s swamp, Lord Farquaad’s castle and the forest. Costumes looked lavish and luxurious and gave us a full range of storybook characters from Peter Pan to everyone’s favourite Gingerbread character ‘Gingy’.

Ben Cracknell’s lighting design kept the air of mystery surrounding Fiona. Princess by day and Ogre by night his clever use of lighting kept her in the shadows and first time audience goers guessing until the end. Whilst many touring productions are scaling back productions due to costs, this production shows no sign of that. This production of Shrek The Musical would not look out of place in London’s West End which is a testament to how good this touring production is.

The score perhaps lets the show down slightly. Certain songs felt shoe horned in and at times audiences didn’t know where to clap however there are several catchy numbers which had the audience captivated. Memorable numbers include ‘Story Of My Life’ led by the ensemble of storybook characters telling us about how hard their lives are now they are resigned to living in the swamp. ‘I Know Its Today’ showcases Fiona throughout her time locked in the castle, showing her at the ages of 7, teenager and today convincing herself for years that today is the day she gets rescued by her Prince Charming. Closing the show, it wouldn’t be Shrek The Musical without the iconic ‘I’m A Believer’ which had the audience, young and old, on their feet clapping and singing along with the cast.

Shrek The Musical truly is fun for all the family. Whilst film to stage adaptions don’t always work, this production takes us all back in time and reminds us why we all fell in love with the ogre. The stage show reminds us that the franchise has gone on to be such huge commercial success spanning sequels, specials and even a London attraction.

Bring everyone to Duloc because this musical is something you could see ogre and ogre again.

This show was reviewed on the 2nd August 2023.  Shrek The Musical runs at the Opera House, Manchester until the 12th August 2023.  Tickets available here: Shrek The Musical Tickets | Opera House Manchester in Manchester | ATG Tickets

Full tour details here: Home - Shrek The Musical (shrekuktour.com)

Review written by Jordan Potts

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