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.