Book and Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Original Director: Jason Moore and Rob Ashford
Tour Director: Nigel Harman
Musical Director: Dave Rose
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Touring stage musicals are a strange beast. Sometimes some of the magic and spectacle is lost in the scaling down to allow for tour logistics. Shrek The Musical, however, is fittingly a genre-defying beast. The West End production seemed somewhat lost on the vastness of the large Theatre Royal, Drury Lane stage but this touring production seems to pack more magic in per stage inch.
Devotees of the Shrek films will find all the expected elements here but with a few twists thrown in along the path. With the opportunity to hear more about the characters we delve into the back story of both Ogre and Princess and learn about the road that lead to this unlikely couple being thrown together.
Shrek has always been more than a children’s movie and one that works for multiple age ranges and the same goes on stage. These backstories, including a hilarious explanation of diminutive Lord Farquaad’s lineage, will have young members of the audience thoroughly entertained but also cause more than a few wry laughs from older viewers who get the references to their own childhood stories.
It is all very slick and tour director Nigel Harman has clearly drawn on his own time in the show to bring out the little nuances that make the piece zing across two hours. Tim Hatley’s designs are a feast for the eyes, providing just enough nod to the cinematic original but also honouring the stage musical heritage. That stage musical heritage does indeed provide a sideline for musical theatre devotees, who can play a game of spot the musical references scattered throughout the staging. Gypsy, Wicked and Les Miserables just three of the shows coming in for some tongue in cheek mocking.
There’s a more sensitive side here to Shrek than we’ve become accustomed to seeing on screen and a side that Dean Chisnall as the green ogre draws out beautifully. Yes, the grumpy, flatulent ogre is still there but we also get to see more clearly the developing love between Shrek and Fiona. Faye Brooks as Fiona also delves deeper into the character on stage, giving us a real insight into those regal mood swings.
Of course no fairy-tale love story would be complete without a dastardly villain and Gerard Carey’s Lord Farquad frequently threatens to steal the show. He may me short of stature but there is no shortage of stage presence in this Farquaad. Carey gives an exquisite physical performance that captures the pint-sized despot perfectly.
Theatrical in jokes and magic abound in this fun production. Dragons, singing gingerbread men, tap dancing rats – for many in the audience bedtime stories will never be the same again!
Although well-constructed and well performed, David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeannie Tesori’s songs are unlikely to stick in the memory long after leaving, although producers do wisely include the singalong finale of I’m A Believer to send the audience out humming.
With high production values and wide age appeal, Shrek The Musical is a monster of a hit that is likely to be keeping families entertained long past bedtime.
Runs until 28 June and continues to tour | Photo Helen Maybanks