I have to hold my hand up and say I wasn’t the first in the queue to go see Shrek the Musical when it opened in the West End over 3 years ago. Even with box office luring stars like Amanda Holden, comedian Richard Blackwood and Eastenders Nigel Harman at the helm it didn’t attract me to see the show based on the Dreamworks animation. How would they create the magic that made the 2001 film such a hit? Would it work when transferred to stage?
Well now I’m a Believer after finally catching the show at the Palace Theatre as it stops there over Christmas as part of its first ever UK Tour.
From start to finish Shrek the Musical is a magical and visually spectacular production, which has something for all the family to enjoy and definitely won’t disappoint. There’s fairy tale characters a plenty including Pinocchio, Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Bears, all beautifully turned out in lavish costumes designed by Tim Hatley.
Of course what you really want to feast your eyes on is the main man Shrek, played by Dean Chisnall who has also performed the role on the West End stage. Chisnall has the audience in the palm of his hand as the heart warming green ogre who falls in love with Princess Fiona after rescuing her from a fire-breathing dragon (an incredible puppet which gives War Horse’s Joey a run for its money)!
Chisnall makes the animated character come to life and, unlike the film, in the show we get more of a back-story on Shrek’s childhood, which provides more meat on the bone to watch. Playing the object of his affection, Princess Fiona, is Flixton born Faye Brookes who puts in a fine performance as the feisty Princess. Brookes is a triple threat performer who can sing, dance and act. She previously toured as Elle in Legally Blonde where she demonstrated some perfect comic timing and again she does so here, especially with Chisnall in the number I Think I Got You Beat– a modern day version of Anything You Can Do (complete with burping and twerking)!
Now in the film version it was Donkey, played by comic genius Eddie Murphy, who took centre stage over Shrek but unfortunately Idriss Kargbo never quite lives up to the performance. Lets face it Murphy had large hooves to fill and to be fair to Kargbo he still manages to raise a few laughs as he energetically moves across the stage.
The surprise star of the show is Gerard Carey as the pint-sized villain Lord Farquaad. Carey gives his all in the role, completely hamming it up to the audiences delight. His facial expressions are hilarious and every musical number he is in has you in stitches! I get the feeling that tour director Nigel Harman who played the original Lord Farquaad in the West End has paid special attention to these scenes as they stand out from the rest and are perfectly polished.
A special mention must go to local girl Lucy Grundy who shines as the Young Fiona. The 10 year old, who hails from Stockport ,has an angelic voice and gave a confident performance which you would never have guessed was her first professional one.
Despite David Lindsay-Abaire’s clever lyrics most of the original songs are run of the mill and not the type you will be humming on the way home. It’s not about the songs though it’s about having fun and that is something Shrek the Musical has in abundance. Whether it’s a child’s giggle at a farting gag or an adult raising a smile at some cheeky innuendo it will lift your spirits for the season.
All in all Shrek the Musical is a magical show you don’t want to miss!
Shrek the Musical
Palace Theatre Manchester
Tue 2 Dec 2014 – Sun 11 Jan 2015
Tickets from £19.50 – £70
0844 871 3019*