Shrek the Musical is composed by Jeanine Tesori with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. The story is based on the 2001 DreamWorks film Shrek and William Steig’s 1990 book.
After an initial tryout in Seattle the original Broadway production opened to luke warm reviews in December 2008 and played for just over 12 months. It was advertised as the most expensive musical production of all time. It closed in January 2010 and undertook a national tour of the United States.
The West End production, which was scaled down and given a new opening especially redesigned for a UK audience opened in June 2011 to positive reviews at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Shrek (Dean Chisnall) is an ogre. On his seventh birthday his parents send him out into the big wide world to make a living. They tell everyone will hate him because he is so ugly and his life will be hard. The scene is set. How could you not feel empathy with this loveable character.
Shrek lives alone. His peaceful life is interrupted when all the fairy tale beings in the kingdom show up at his swamp. These include an array of elves, fairies and among others, Pinocchio and Humpty Dumpty, who have been exiled from the Kingdom of Duloc by order of nasty Lord Farquaad (Neil McDermott).
Shrek decides to go and see Lord Farquaad so that all the fairy tale beings will return to Duloc his life can return to normal. Somewhere along the way he acquires a loveable, talkative Donkey (Richard Blackwood). The relationship between Shrek and Donkey is central to the unfolding story.
Meanwhile, Lord Farquaad seeks the whereabouts of Princess Fiona (Carley Stenson) who he needs to marry to become King.
Princess Fiona is trapped in a tower surrounded by lava and guarded by a flying, fire-breathing dragon. She was sent there as a child by her parents King Harold and Queen Lillian because she was cursed and turned into an orgre every evening.
Shrek and Donkey find Lord Farquaad who orders Shrek to rescue Princess Fiona so he can marry her and in return promises to give Shrek the deeds to his swamp.
Shrek and Donkey sets off to rescue the Princess who can only be saved from the effects of her curse by a kiss from her one true love and yes you have guessed it, that turns out to be Shrek not Lord Farquaad.
The show brings every well loved folk lore character to life. They are all in the production, Humpty Dumpty, Peter Pan, White Rabbit, the Ugly Duckling, the Pied Piper, and the Sugar Plum Fairy to mention just a few.
This is a classic love story, presented in glorious technicolour and pitched at a younger audience who were lapping it up on the night I was there.
The set, though simple in concept is impressive, with painted backdrops forming the main scenery. The award winning costumes are extravagant and the performances suitably over the top.
The sheer scale of the size of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane makes everything on stage look larger than life. It is just like watching a cartoon on the telly and the entrance of the flying dragon over the audience is particularly effective and trilling for the children.
The main problem with the musical is that it has no real tunes you can remember. This was remedied after the show opened with the inclusion of the Monkey’s classic, ‘I’m a believer’, but apart from that catchy number the rest of the musical score is more narrative than melody.
For a grown up audience this is not a problem, but the younger people on the night I was there, were clearly missing a good tune to listen to.
The storyline is involved even for adults, so for a child it can be a real challenge to keep abreast of the fast moving storyline.
Dean Chisnall’s plays Shrek as a loveable loser with a heart of gold. He is a huge presence on the stage, very musical and sings his numbers with such ease. I could listen to him singing all night.
Richard Blackwood’s Donkey is beautifully underplayed. He keeps his facial expressions under control and achieves much of his comedic moments with his voice. He is very, very funny and the kids in the audience loved him as did the grownups.
Neil McDermott’s Lord Farquaad is a triumph. He spends the show scurrying round the stage on his knees or is it his bum to emphasise his lack of stature. The camp and quick fire delivery of his lines makes him the centre of attraction every time he takes the stage. He is funny but never lets you forget he is a loathsome, nasty baddie.
Finally Carley Stenson’s feisty Princess Fiona is a perfect foil to all the other leads. She is convincing in her singing and makes you feel empathy with her both in her role as a human and an ogre.
The audience on the night I saw Shrek was 60% under the age of 15 as it was a benefit for Children in Need. This is clearly a show that kids will love but it is much, much more and will give adults the opportunity to relive their youth as they cast their minds back to when they believed there was a Pied Piper and that Humpty Dumpty really existed.
The show is booking until February 24, 2013 and would make an ideal Christmas present or an alternative to the usual traditional Christmas Panto.
Productions on this majestic scale are few and far between. They need to be cherished and Shrek deserves your attention.
Shrek The Musical is recommended for ages 5 and up. Younger children will be admitted, but it is the policy of Theatre Royal Drury Lane that staff may ask for them to be removed from the auditorium if they cause a disturbance to other patrons.
All persons entering the theatre must have a ticket – babes in arms are not permitted.
For more information and to book tickets, view: