ComedyDramaFamilyNorth East & YorkshireReview

Shrek – The Grand, Leeds

Book and Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire

Music: Jeanine Tesori

Director: Nigel Harman

Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood

Once upon a time there was an ogre called Shrek. Shrek The Musical is based on the popular 2001 DreamWorks Animation Film Shrek and William Steig’s book of the same name. The musical premiered ten years ago in Seattle, United States, and is now on its second UK Tour including a stop in Leeds.

The story is about Shrek (Steffan Harri), a green ogre, who has been ditched by his parents and was forewarned by them that he won’t be liked because of his appearance. Years later, Shrek lives alone in a swamp. That is until a group of familiar sparring fairy tale characters arrives unannounced. The characters have been evicted from their land in Duloc by Lord Farquaad (Samuel Holmes), which prompts Shrek to travel to meet Farquaad, in order to demand his swamp back, as well as the homes of the fairy tale characters. En route, he rescues Donkey (Marcus Ayton), and after meeting Farquaad, Shrek agrees to rescue Princess Fiona (Laura Main) from the inaccessible tower guarded by a dragon, in exchange for getting his swamp back. Farquaad is determined to marry the Princess, as it would mean a license for him to become King.

The audience is taken on a journey with plenty of ups and downs. A storybook narration of fairy tales intertwines with nonstop comedy and show-stopping musical numbers. There is such a feel-good factor where the audience is engaged with laughter from beginning to end. There is the familiarity of well-known fairy tales which appeals to the younger members of the audience and suggestive innuendoes and adult references for the older ones – definitely something for everything. Like the majority of fairy stories, it ends all well, the spells are broken, true love is sought, and they all live happily ever after. This is celebrated in the Finale with the popular I’m a Believer.

Tim Hatley’s staging and sets are bright and colourful. It goes so well, particularly the green theme, with the costumes and the storytelling. Noticeable are the visuals including the lighting, courtesy of Hugh Vanstone, particularly the use of a life-size book being used as a set at the beginning, captivating the mood and ambiance for the main story. Hatley’s puppetry is cleverly arranged and innovatively used, especially for the short Farquaad and life-size dragon (voiced by Christina Modestou). The entertaining and reflective musical numbers, set to Tesori’s music, are under the arrangement of Danny Troob and the conductorship of Colm O’Regan.

An excellent performance overall from the cast, lead by Harri, Main, Holmes and Ayton and a collective performance of the much-loved fairy characters from the supporting cast. Shrek The Musical appeals to all including families and its spellbinding story of stories entrances and entertains one and all! It is certainly a recommendable festive treat.

Reviewed on 19th December 2018 | Image: Contributed

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