2001 saw the release of Dreamwork’s Oscar winning, animated film, ‘Shrek’. It is a wonderful romp through fairy-tale lands, with an Ogre, a Talking Donkey and a beautiful (if temperamental) Princess! Along the way they meet a myriad of characters- from Pinocchio (he’s a real boy!) to the three little pigs, via an enormous amorous dragon, a cross dressing wolf and the diminutive Lord Farquaard!
I must admit, as I was settling down in the Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre, to watch ‘Shrek: The Musical’, I was curious as to how the creative team would bring to life the world of the film on stage. I don’t think I was the only one, the buzz of expectation and excitement was palpable through the audience. This is the second time that ‘Shrek: The Musical’ has made its way to Wales, the last time was in December 2015.
The show is advertised as an ‘all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza’ – and it certainly doesn’t disappoint! From the moment the giant storybook opens centre stage and Shrek’s parents send him off in to the world (with surprisingly wonderful vocals for Ogres!) to the tap-dancing rats and ‘I’m a Believer’ in the finale, there is hardly time to catch your breath. That being said, some of the numbers could be cut to save time in a very long first half (there were lots of shuffles as the first act progressed and a dash for the loo at the interval from the families around me!).
The humour comes thick and fast too, with classic lines of dialogue from the film repeated word for word, with some interesting new additions so we gain a better understanding of the main characters backstories. A particular comedy highlight is the Himmelstein and Darnell song from the original film “Welcome to Duloc”, with the classic line ‘Please keep off of the grass, clean your shoes, wipe your…. face”!
Special mention to Michael Carolan taking the lead role of ‘Shrek’ due to illness of Steffan Harri. He performed with gusto, though I would like to have seen a greater depth to the character, as Shrek himself says ‘Ogres are like onions… they have layers’.
Samuel Holmes performing as diminutive Lord Farquaad steals the show. He spends nearly the entire time on his knees (goodness knows how he manages for the months they’re on tour)! Marcus Ayton as ‘Donkey‘ ably assists Shrek on his adventures with great comic timing and Laura Maine as Princess Fiona is loud and brash, with strong vocals, able to really belt out her songs!
The ensemble is tight, with every member inhabiting each of the myriad of characters they play and seeming to enjoy every minute!
There is more than enough to keep children of all ages (from 5 to 105) entertained and awestruck, with special effects a-plenty, mesmerising puppetry, and more than an occasional nod to other musicals and films along the way.
This is a good show for fans of the original film, though (unlike Lord Farquaad) it could do with being slightly shorter!
Wales Millennium Centre