Review: Shrek The Musical

Posted by Matt Bourne on 02:20 with No comments
Shrek The Musical - Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

It's been a while since the West End had some truly family orientated musicals that has something for everyone.  Now there are two, firstly Matilda which opened to rave reviews recently and also Shrek The Musical which is the subject of our attention here.

Shrek the Musical follows the recent reverse trend of bringing popular movies and turning them into stage musicals (Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Sister Act, The Bodyguard etc.) and it follows the events of the first movie where Shrek meets Donkey and they get sent out to rescue Princess Fiona to return her to Lord Farrquaad so that Shrek can get his swap back and get rid of all the fairy tale characters that have been banished there by Farquaad.  However, Fiona and Shrek fall in love and Fiona has a secret that she's afraid of letting anyone know about.

Over the years Shrek has had 3 sequels to varying degrees of success and a theme park ride created, so only using the first story of Shrek pantheon seems a little bit blinkered when they had a whole realm of the stories to play with.  However keeping it in this time frame at least keeps the story concise.  However it also, suffers from predictability as the story doesn't deviate from any part of the movie.  It would have been nice to add maybe a couple of flourishes in to proceedings.  However this is a minor grumble as Jason Moore keeps proceedings taught and whip smart.

The cast is where the show really shines, with Neil McDermotts Farquaad the show stealer du jour here.  He's an absolute joy to watch as he brings the house down with a rapturous performance that delivers on every level.  Richard Blackwood too as Donkey, performing the UKs Eddie Murphy role with aplomb, but actually manages to steal a lead on Murphy as the seminal Donkey.  Richard Blackwood has been the UKs best kept secret for far too long and hopefully off the back of Shrek we will start seeing a whole lot more of him once again. Dean Chisnell & Carly Stenson as Shrek and Fiona respectively are solid enough in the lead roles and seem happy to allow the other characters around them to flourish while they keep the ship steady although a show highlight for many is the burping and farting competition which had the younger members of the audience rooling in the aisles while most of the parents look on in abject horror before allowing themselves to get swept away in the moment.  It certainly gives the camp fire scene in Blazing Saddles a run for it's money thats for sure.

The music in the show is great, without being fantastic.  There's no real swell in the tunes to allow you to really get behind the music, the songs lean to heavily on knowing influences such as Freak Flag (Les Mis) and Morning Person (Snow White).  The crowd is finally lifted in the much anticipated finale (I'm a Believer), but by then half of the crowd (The adults) will have disengaged from proceedings.  Which is fine for the most part, as the show is aimed squarely at the younger members of the audience and fans of the movie.  But really needed that extra je ne sais quoi to make it truly spectacular.  A great night out for the kids, but the parents may leave a little unfulfilled.

Matt Bourne