Book/Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Director: Nigel Harman
Reviewer: John Roberts
Based on the Dreamworks Animation film, which itself was based on a book by William Steig of the same name, Shrek the Musical has had a rather fairytale journey with a big bright beautiful Broadway opening, several US Tours, a two-year run at the Theatre Royal Drury and a UK Tour.
Shrek tells the tale of an Ogre, forced out as a youngster to fend for himself, when his swamp is occupied by fairy tale creatures who have been forced out of the kingdom, Shrek embarks on an adventure to put things right and bring peace and quiet to his little bit of the world.
Steffan Harri is sensational as the titular green protagonist, he balances Shrek’s charm and rough edges brilliant and gives us a fully rounded character that can certainly belt out a song. Marcus Ayton as Shrek’s hairy sidekick Donkey pulls out many laughs as he camps about the stage on four hooves – it’s also a delight to hear Donley’s songs that were previously removed for the UK production back where they belong. Laura Main gives it her all as Princess Fiona, she may struggle at times vocally but she more than makes up for it with her portrayal of the princess with a secret to hide. Strong vocals certainly come from Lucinda Shaw as the voice of the Dragon, her rendition of Forever being a show highlight, however, the show is truly stolen by the performance of Lord Farquaad by Samuel Holmes. Holmes is a master of comedy and never fails to milk a laugh or get the audience on side by one quick look.
Despite the last UK Tour having the same director (Nigel Harman) there are distinctive changes that have been made to this current production – some for the better and some for the worse – one can understand the decision from a director to stay true to the original but wanting to put their own stamp on proceedings, however most the changes made by Harmen are to the detriment of the show, rather than improving things – why get rid of a chance for young performers to take to the stage in a professional show and replace them by hideously designed oversized puppets, which are crudely manipulated? Bring back the Young Fiona’s and give the stars of the future their chance to shine. After all aren’t fairy tales meant to be the one place dreams can come true?
On Tim Hatley’s colourful set, forced perspective is used often in what is an otherwise flat and cloth based set, sadly compared to other touring productions it starts to look cheap and a little underwhelming but when lit by Hugh Vanstone’s design the visual magic starts to appear.
The negatives aside Shrek still stands as an enjoyable evening of escapist theatre, it may not be as big and bright as its predecessors but it’s still given an energetic performance by a strong cast who excel in their roles and David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori’s songs are still a stand out, no matter how many times you listen to them.
Runs until 28th January 2018 and continues on a UK Tour | Image: Helen Maybanks