Once upon a time there was an animation film called Shrek...
Personally, I have seen
the film at least 30 times – I do have two children – and I love it. I love the
characters, I love the humour, I love the anti-hero storyline and I love the
So there were concerns, I must admit, as we arrived at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre that Shrek the Musical would not be able to meet the very high bar set by the DreamWorks animation. That despite our excitement and anticipation, the stage version wouldn’t be, frankly, as funny.
How wrong we were. We laughed from beginning to end – even though we knew when some of the punchlines were coming. Bringing these much-loved film characters to life was a stroke of comedy genius - yet no mean feat to achieve.
Watching the spry, flexible actor Gerard Carey shuffle about as the vertically-challenged Lord Farquaad was hilarious – and even funnier when he managed to ‘leap’ around the stage in his dance routine.
The musical manages to stay fairly true to the film, without completely replicating it. Some of the scenes are lost – such as the one-man Shrek battering in the castle and Donkey is introduced a little later. But it does retain some of the nice touches such as the big-headed man, the exploding bird and the Welcome to Duloc ditty.
And, more importantly, the action does still manage to drift from the swamp, to Lord Farquaad’s castle, through meadows, to Princess Fiona’s tower and even to the impressive church for the big wedding scene.
The colourful, traditional fairytale characters are all brought to life – with some ingenuity for the Gingerbread Man while the huge dragon is quite something to behold as she sings, sashays and smoulders across the stage.
The sets appear quite simple and the storyline switches smoothly between scenes. Countless effects are used almost seamlessly and unremarkably although Fiona’s transformation – particularly at the end – is cleverly done.
The success of Shrek, however, is down to the much-loved characters who are portrayed in the film by some of the biggest names in Hollywood – Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz.
Shrek is the accidental hero – ugly, smelly, bad mannered, grumpy and grotesquely base. But we love him, we see through the layers – ogres are like onions don’t you know – and see the heart of gold beneath.
The costume is amazing and Dean Chisnall is barely recognisable in the title role as he almost transforms into a lumbering beast on stage – but bringing the comedy element and loveable character we want to see. With the added benefit of being able to sing.
Bronte Barbe plays the troubled Princess Fiona, the fairytale royal who expects to follow the script to find her happy ever after only to discover she doesn’t quite fit the part – and neither does the love of her life.
Bronte convincingly conveys the feisty, tomboy princess with enthusiasm and humour and truly shines in her musical numbers with a powerful voice and some nifty dance moves.
Also worth a mention is Shrek’s newly adopted best friend Donkey played by Idriss Kargbo who brings an energy and sassiness to the role but really comes into his own when the musical spotlight is on him in such numbers as Make a Move.
The musical score is fun and lively – particularly such songs as I Think I Got You Beat and The Ballad of Farquaad - but only really offers a couple of outstanding numbers. Shrek’s When Words Fail was particularly beautiful. It was quite nice to finish on a high with The Monkees’ I’m a Believer which had everyone clapping and singing along.
This is a funny, feel-good show that has mastered the transition from film to theatre. Take the family along, you will all love it and everyone will live happily ever after.
- Runs at the Grand Theatre until October 11
By Diane Davies