Our internationally beloved ogre is back, as Shrek is leaving the swamp to travel around the UK on tour. Combining a cracking soundtrack with family fun, an abundance of familiar fairytale faces, and plot that has headed the iconic franchise for over 20 years now, the joyously energetic musical is the ideal entertainment to brighten up these wet winter evenings (and into the equally rainy spring, no doubt!).
Embarking on an unexpected quest, Shrek (played by Antony Lawrence) finds himself forced to find a lover for little Lord Farquaad, in order to rid himself of the entourage of characters who were banished to his swamp. Audiences quickly become fond of our Shrek, and Antony lends an ideal impression for this, easily incorporating the grotesque with the loveable. Along the way, he picks up a companion in the form of Donkey (Brandon Lee Sears), who strikes up a friendship, despite Shrek's best efforts to stop him and his wildly flamboyant energy. Approaching the city of Dulock with caution, there lies a dragon to pass before rescuing the lonely princess named Fiona (Joanne Clifton, a lovely portrayal all round) from the tower... everyone knows the story, so why not experience it in an on stage extravaganza? Farts and burps aplenty, there are also a handful of jokes for the big kids watching, that go over heads to be noted!
With pristine hair, and only the most fashionable outfits, James Gillan as Lord Farquaad gives a hilariously camp performance that is guaranteed to leave you laughing. It is a fantastic job in the portrayal of the vertically challenged villain - an unforgettable characterisation. In previous productions, this role's short stature has been depicted with the actor on their knees with puppet-like fake legs: this controversy is no longer the case, but the lack of comedic attribute presented in this way is certainly made up for in persona! However, it could be said that there are still some rather questionable lines remaining in the script for a family show, which could probably be altered fairly smoothly for the future.
A huge highlight is the appearance of the dragon, both in puppet form, and stunning pink costume worn by Cherece Richards; this feels like a particularly magical theatre moment as it comes to life, especially considering her class vocals to match. A whole host of costumes (designed, along with the set, by Philip Witcomb) make up the selection of storybook characters, with Pinocchio being stand out from these, though collectively looking fantastic in formation with Nick Winston's punchy choreography for the tunes at every given opportunity during the show. The set pieces revealed prove to be a great use of staging, transforming the place into Shrek's murky swamp, or the pristinely unblemished Dulock, though often there are significant periods between changing these where the scenery is displayed using projection (and for part of this particular show, it didn't quite line up on the curtain properly) so was a shame to have not seen more of the compositions, though unsure if this could logistically be changed.
The band that accompany the music by Jeanine Tesori, with lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire throughout are excellent, and with each track being catchy and purely theatrical, you will want to keep listening! Opening with 'Big Bright Beautiful World' by Shrek, then the ensemble performing 'Story of my Life', audiences get an immediate sense of how the production fits together, and the range of vocal skill amongst the cast too. It's hard to pick any top tracks, when the majority are enjoyable additions. 'I Know It's Today' is sung beautifully by all three ages of Fiona, and following the interval, her entrance to the second act is gloriously unhinged, bouncing about the space singing 'Morning Person' and meeting some local wildlife - a surprise sequence here becomes an unexpectedly random memory from the night! Without forgetting 'I'm a Believer' to finish, the track list is underrated in the theatre world, as it definitely has some crackers: a truly Shrektacular time is guaranteed!
Featuring all of the iconic catchphrases too, this production is heaps of entertainment for everyone. Be a believer, let your freak flag fly, and get yourself to your local theatre to catch Shrek the Musical now - you won't want to miss it.