Shrek The Musical began life as Shrek the animated movie back in 2001 and like other films of the same ilk such as “The Lion King”, “Frozen”, “Beauty And The Beast” etc. their success with kids of all ages, inspired producers to adapt them for the stage with big-budget spectaculars.
Shrek The Musical opened on Broadway in November 2008 and ran for 442 performances before closing in January 2010. At the time it was one of the most expensive productions to hit the Great White Way costing an estimated $25million to put on. It was nominated for eight Tonys winning just one for Best Costume Design. A scaled-down version came to London in 2011 and ran for 715 performances being nominated for four Olivier awards with Nigel Harman winning Best Performance In A Supporting Role as Lord Farquaad. It then toured the UK from 2014 to 2017 and now after six years, it’s back on an extensive tour that started in Plymouth last July and won’t end until it gets to Derry in April 2024. Last night it arrived in Wimbledon and whilst it certainly didn’t cost $25 million dollars, audiences certainly get the money’s worth as it’s still pretty spectacular.
As it’s been so ubiquitous over the past 22 years and has been seen in one form or another by a few generations, there’s very little point in describing the plot suffice to say it’s all about a big green ogre and his search for love and acceptance and a happy ever after ending.
This touring production, although scaled back still has a lot for the audience to look at. There’s a cast of twenty-one for a start so the stage is always filled with movement and energy with members of the ensemble of ten playing four or five parts. There’s also an “orchestra” of seven who sound a lot bigger than that although at times like a lot of musicals these days, they’re a bit over-amplified.
However, to paraphrase football speak, this is a show of two halves. The first half is a bit plodding and at times a bit yawn-inducing. The songs apart from those two stalwarts of many an actors’ audition “This Is How A Dream Comes True” and “Who I’d Be”, are a bit generic and forgettable which is surprising as the music is written by Jeanine Tesori (“Fun Home”, “Caroline Or Change” etc. ) whose compositions usually hit the spot. For the most part, the same goes for David Lindsay-Abaire’s lyrics although he does get to rhyme “grotesque” with “Kafkaesque”! And there are some clever references to Wicked and Gypsy.
Then everything changes in the second act when everything livens up (maybe it was a cunning plan by the creative team?). Princess Fiona becomes feisty and interesting, we get tap-dancing rats, the dialogue is much funnier, the various fairy tale characters get their moment in the sun and the energy levels are ramped up to eleven. The songs are much better with a lot more light and shade, the highlight being the throwback to the hippy days of the sixties, the superb “Freak Flag ”sung with great gusto by the fairy tale characters. We’re even left with a message about loving people whatever they look like on the outside as they’re beautiful on the inside.
As for the performances, Antony Lawrence is excellent as the eponymous Shrek; how he does this every night in green makeup, a bald cap on his head and a fat suit is a real feat. He also sings superbly and dances delightfully. Joanne Clifton is perfect as Princess Fiona, a feisty character who too is looking for love (although I’m not sure why they have to mimic the film’s American accent – after all, Shrek sounds Scottish). Brand Lee Sears gives Donkey a lot of personality and charisma. James Gillan as Lord Farquaad gives the role the campness it requires but It’s a real disappointment (and a missed trick) to see him play the character standing on his own two feet. In the Broadway and West End productions, the actor playing the character, did it on his knees with fake legs (after all his father is one of the Seven Dwarves) and a prosthetic chin. Although Gillan isn’t that tall, the joke that Lord Farquaad is supposed to be short of stature is missing. Now this could be because doing it that way could be seen as “hightist” (I sincerely hope not) or it’s hard on the actor’s knees, for whatever reason, it’s not the same.
Apart from the four lead performers, the whole ensemble is wonderful playing a number of parts including the aforementioned tap dancing rats, fairy tale characters, guards, etc. changing characters and costumes in a flash. Special mention must go to Cherece Richards who plays the Dragon and belts out her big solo number splendidly and almost stops the show.
The show ends after the curtain calls with a rousing rendition of The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer” and the audience leaves the auditorium on a high. Shrek The Musical is the perfect musical to take your child or grandchild to – don’t children of all ages love farting and burping jokes?
Review by Alan Fitter
Join our unlikely hero Shrek and his noble steed Donkey as they embark on a big, bright, musical adventure!
Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film, the Broadway and West End smash hit Shrek the Musical is a fun filled and hilarious musical comedy with a cast of vibrant characters and a ‘shrek-tackular’ score.
Featuring the beloved Princess Fiona, the evil Lord Farquaad, a host of magical fairy-tale characters and fabulous songs including the smash hit I’m a Believer, Shrek the Musical is a “musical extravaganza for big kids and little kids alike”.
Come join the adventure as Shrek and Donkey endeavour to complete their quest, finding unexpected friendships and surprising romance along the way.
A perfect night out for the young, and the young at heart, the award-winning Shrek the Musical is guaranteed fun for all ages and will have you laughing all the way home.
The Oscar®-winning DreamWorks animated film Shrek celebrated its 20th-anniversary last year. Shrek the Musical was first performed on Broadway in 2008, receiving 8 Tony nominations, and the award for Best Costume and Set Design. The original West End production was nominated for Best New Musical at the 2012 Olivier Awards, and Nigel Harman received the award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Lord Farquaad.
Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the Book by William Steig
Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Originally produced on Broadway by DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Productions
Book tickets from £13.00 to see Shrek The Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre from Tuesday 26th September, 2023 to Saturday 30th September, 2023.
View all shows booking now at New Wimbledon Theatre.
New Wimbledon Theatre
93 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1QG, UK