- OnStage United Kingdom Critic
Shrek is one of the most loved films from the noughties, the musical adaption first premiered on Broadway in 2008, since then it has had a run in the west end, toured the UK and now once again it is touring across the United Kingdom. So how does this new production compare to the musical's previous productions?
The story is based around an ogre named, Shrek, whose swamp has been invaded by fairytale creatures, sent by leader of Duloc, Lord Farquaad. Shrek is sent on a quest by Farquaad to retrieve the woman he desires to marry to make him king, Princess Fiona, who is in a high tower protected by a fire breathing dragon. Will Shrek succeed to bring back the princess with the help of his new companion, donkey?
Steffan Harri bursts onto stage as Shrek, the iconic Scottish ogre. Steffan's Scottish accent was spot on, faultless, take it from a Scotsman! The energy he provided on stage was brilliant, his portrayal of Shrek was so much fun to watch, you could tell he enjoyed every minute of it on that stage. His singing was also faultless, who I'd be, was performed with such emotion, it showed a completely different side to the ogre we all know and love. Steffan gave the best portrayal have seen of Shrek, I believe he even topped Brian d'Arcy James, the original Shrek from the Broadway/Seattle company of the musical.
Laura Main smashes the role of Princess Fiona. She gives a very cookie and also energetic performance of the princess desperate for love to escape her curse. She is all singing and all dancing, watching this delightful character's story unfold in front of you can't help but put a smile on your face. I would say it would be a performance to top Cameron Diaz and match Sutton Foster's portrayal.
Marcus Ayton is hilarious as Shrek's, goofy companion, donkey. Marcus gives his own spin on the character originated in the motion picture by Eddie Murphy. I love the originality, it makes the dialogue taken straight from the film even surprising due to his delivery. I think he provides enough sass, flamboyance and also just brilliant facial expressions. His vocal talents are impressive as well, performing Don't Let Me Go his vocal work was brilliant even while running after Shrek. Fantastic portrayal of another iconic character.
Samuel Holmes is the perfect Lord Farquaad, he beats every predecessor in the musical adaption. His posh accent, quick humour, stage presence and physical movement, while performing on his knees, is simply staggering. He gives his all on the stage, plus, knows how to work the audience and also his cast mates. I would hate to see the bruises on his legs! Cannot wait to see what Samuel gets up to next.
Now, the rest of the cast also had parts as different fairytale creatures. Shrek the Musical has some of the best ensemble musical numbers within musical theatre and this company do them more than justice. Brilliant vocal and physical work supplied. Especially from Joseph Dockree as Pinocchio, Jemma Revell as Gingy and the sugar plum fairy. Plus, Lucinda Shaw who not only plays the fairy godmother but also supplies the outstanding voice of dragon in Forever.
Nigel Harman returns as director for this production, he originated the role of Lord Farquaad in the west end. He then went on to direct the previous UK touring production, which had strong talent, however, failed to provide the same quality of performance as previous runs. This production is much smoother, it seems that it has been planned out better creatively. With help from Tim Hatley's set/costume design, Hugh Vanstone's lighting design and Duncan Mclean's video design. Everything makes the production look much better quality, it is clear more money has been put into the set designs. I would say it is close enough to compete with the original Broadway production.
The quality of everything seems to be much higher this time around, the production even seems to top the run at the Theatre Royal in London. Costume, set and also sound seem to be a better quality which makes it seem like they have justified the reason to bring this show back, just to do it better.
The only thing I would say is that there is one creative decision which definitely does not work. One of the biggest and most recognized numbers in the musical is I know it's today. This is a song which is typically sung by Princess Fiona as a child, a teenager and then an adult. In this production, perhaps due to the budget, there was no child or teenage Princess Fiona. Instead, they lined up puppets of different princesses, which Princess Fiona used to sing the parts of the song typically sang by her younger selves. It did not work well. Because I know the show and how amazing this song is with the three-part harmony, plus the overall character development this number supplies, I couldn’t help but cringe. The puppets looked totally out of place and did not fit the set which looked rather expensive. I would highly recommend this number to be looked at by the creative team again as the puppets just don't work.
It was a delight to revisit this show, mainly because it is better than any production I have seen of it previously. The cast and creative team have worked together to create something that will be welcomed with open arms up and down the country. As musicals go it is a really good musical, however some creative decisions do take away some of the splendor the scenes were designed to supply. This is family fun at its best, if you want to introduce your children to musical theatre, this is the best one to do it. I rate this production 4/5 stars. Get out and see Shrek the Musical!