Book &Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Director: Nigel Harman
Reviewer: John Roberts
Based on the 2001 DreamWorks animated movie – which itself was based on a picture book by William Steig, Shrek the Musical first landed on Broadway in 2008, and a West End run followed in 2011 – 2013. This current UK tour has been on the road for nearly two yearsand ends its run here at The Lowry Theatre later this month.
As musical theatre goes, you can’t get a brighter, bolder (mainly thanks to Tim Hately’s costume and set design) or more family-friendly musical than Shrek. David Lindsay-Abaire’s book stays faithful to the original movie, yet allows him to give more of a backstory to the character of Princess Fiona. His lyrics are witty and, teamed with Jeanine Tesori’s music, the show earworms itself on more than one occasion.
The production has undergone several minor changes for a British audience from its original Broadway production; most, however, are little trims here and there to cut down the running time and a couple of character changes among the inhabitants of the Land of Far Far.
Directed by the UK’s original Lord Farquard, Nigel Harman manages to inject the musical with a sense of real fun and adventure. Not only does it poke fun at itself but also manages to beautifully pastiche many West End favourites including; Wicked, The Lion King and Les Miserables. Energetic choreography is delivered by Josh Prince and really stands out in big company numbers like Freak Flag and Story of My Life.
In the role of our titular green hero; Dean Chisnall conveys the larger-than-life ogre with aplomb and his rendition of Who I’d Be is sublime, he shares great chemistry with Bronté Barbé as Princess Fiona – she brings plenty of heat to the character and the pair set the theatre into roars of laughter during their Act Two number I Think I Got You Beat. Great support also comes from Gerard Carey as the loveably annoying Donkey… But the show is ultimately stolen by Gerard Carey as Lord Farquaad – a role that may be vertically challenged but his comic delivery hits all the highs.
Although on first appearance Shrek the Musical may appear fluffy and overly big – like an ogre, the show has plenty of layers and the underlying message of hidden beauty and acceptance stands strong in a world that is so focused on body image.
A fun musical with a heart of gold and message that we can all learn from, what’s not to like?
Runs until 20 February 2016 | Image: Helen Maybanks