Book and Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Director: Nigel Harman
Reviewer: Lu Greer
Shrek the Musical, currently embarking on its second UK tour, brings to the stage the hugely successful 2001 Dreamworks animation. The original film reinvented the fairytale, following the gruff ogre Shrek from his beloved swamp on an adventure that teaches us lessons about perceptions of beauty and goodness.
The real charm originally came from finding that fabled sweet spot of a film landing between a children’s’ classic and genuinely funny for the adults in the audience, but with 17 years having passed since then, it begs the question – is Shrek still funny, and is it still relevant? The show holds true to much of what created the still growing Shrek film franchise, with characterisation sticking closely to that of the films, right down to the accents, and many of the best jokes being repeated on the stage.
Steffan Harri as Shrek manages well with the bulky costume and hefty prosthetics, taking the audience with him from his self-imposed exile in the swamp on an adventure that changes him for the better. As his sidekick, Marcus Ayton as Donkey is funny and energetic but sticks to many of Eddie Murphy’s mannerisms, and alongside the pair, Amelia Lily as PrincessFiona is determined and intelligent with an impressive vocal range as well as comic timing.
There are times when the show feels as though its losing momentum and energy, as the cast attempt the accents familiar from the film, and produce the same lines we all now perhaps know a little too well. Whenever the show starts to flag, however, it is saved by Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad. Holmes’ comedic sense, timing, and physical gags breathe new life into the show at all the key points, and the cheeky asides to the audience keep the laughs going even longer.
The score is optimistic and well performed throughout, and while there aren’t many vocal standouts, Jennifer Tierney, taking on a dual role as Mama Bear and the Dragon shows off an impressive range and genuinely lifts those around her. The dragon itself is manoeuvred wonderfully and is very much a part of the cast, and the rest of the puppetry reaches the same high standards with the torture of the gingerbread man being perhaps even funnier than the original.
This really is a high-quality show, with excellent timing, wit, and stunning visuals. The music added to distinguish it from its film source material serves more as a plot device than delivering any standout moments, and the cast tends to opt for mirroring the original for much of the show. In reality, though, none of that matters: this is a show that will make every audience member laugh, no matter their age, and comes wrapped in a heart-warming message that it really is okay to just be yourself, and that’ll do, donkey, that’ll do.
Runs Until: 8 July 2018 | Image: Helen Maybanks