Written by David Lindsay-Abaire with music by Jeanine Tesori, Shrek the Musical is a delightful stage adaptation of the beloved DreamWorks animated film franchise.
Premiering on Broadway in 2008, the production garnered critical acclaim for its whimsical storytelling, captivating characters and impressive technical feats, including the incredible prosthetic makeup transforming the actors into iconic fairy-tale creatures.
The musical received several Tony Award nominations and won the Tony for Best Costume Design. On this side of the pond, it also found success opening in the West End in 2011, earning positive reviews and an Olivier Award nomination. Since then, Shrek the Musical has embarked on multiple successful UK tours and has become a firm favourite of amateur companies.
Now Shrek and the gang are back out on the road as a new tour is currently making it’s way around the UK. Stopping at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London audiences once again have the chance to see the enchanting world of Shrek and his quirky companions come to life.
Just like the film, we join Shrek and his trusty sidekick Donkey as they set out on a quest to defeat the fearsome dragon and rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona. With a heart-warming story and a cast of unforgettable characters, this musical extravaganza features the hit song I’m A Believer an original score by Jeanine Tesori that audiences have come to love. Get ready to leave your troubles Far Far Away and embark on an unforgettable adventure filled with laughter, love, and ogre-sized fun.
As our hero, Antony Lawrence impresses as Shrek. Handling the score with ease, Lawrence powers through the familiar songs and really looks like he’s enjoying himself. The heart of the show, Lawrence sets the pace from the start with a rousing Bright, Big Beautiful World and continues with wit, joy and a lot of burps and farts. A wonderful rendition of a character loved by many.
Donkey (played by Lee Sears) is the perfect side kick. Delivering all of Donkey’s well-known one liners with a fresh punchy edge, Sears puts his all into the role and performs with a powerful vocal throughout.
As Princess Fiona, Joanne Clifton appeared to be in her element. Hamming it up throughout, Clifton gave a strong performance and had many a child in the audience enamoured with her Fiona.
James Gillan gave us his best villain as Lord Farquaad and the audience loved it. With many a wink to the adults in the audience, Gillan gave a fun performance filled with nuance and laughs.
Playing a multitude of fairy-tale characters throughout, the ensemble performed admirably giving the audience lots to love with belly laughs and some vocally impressive chorus numbers.
Philip Witcomb’s costumes were inventive, fun and easily identifiable and his set design added to the sense of magic. Nina Dunn created some stunning video design work for the set that looked beautiful when displayed on the back wall. However, it was blurry and unidentifiable when projected on the front curtain throughout the show.
Directors Samuel Holmes and Nick Winston crafted a show that was fun and seemingly geared towards children. While a fairy-tale story, what makes Shrek endearing is it’s nods to adults humour and popular culture. This production seemed to gloss over some of the popular culture references, missing the clearly defined musical theatre references throughout the score.
While some of the lines had been re-written to better align with current terminologies and to suit this production, others were left in-tact missing jokes and sending a mixed message. Due to this, there seemed to be a disconnect between the cast and the audience and this production of Shrek just seemed rushed.
Since premiering in 2008, Shrek The Musical has become a family favourite. Audiences are able to watch their favourite characters at home in the films and then see them come to life live on stage. While not perfect, this production hits all the right spots with its enchanting performances and toe-tapping tunes, ensuring that your little ones will be thoroughly entertained.
Reviewed by Stuart James