Following its previous record-breaking UK and Ireland tour, this smash hit blockbuster based on the Oscar-winning 2001 film is returning to Norwich’s Theatre Royal. Shrek the Musical promises to be a “hilarious and spectacular production, turn[ing] the world of fairytales upside down in an all-singing, all-dancing, must-see musical comedy”, and it certainly delivered on its promises.
The audience were treated to a delightful spectacle of projections and special effects from the outset. The talented cast guided us beautifully through the story of a rather unlikely fairytale that we all know and have come to love. Since its previous tour in 2015, Shrek the Musical appears to have gone through a transformation, with alterations to some of the songs and minor changes to the casting and appearances of characters and props. This improved the flow of the story and brought it in-line with satire on current subjects. The lavish costumes and “Brexit Horse” demonstrated the incredible level of sophistication and detail the producing and directing teams put into this show to create a colourful and current comedic musical filled with both romance and laughter.
There were a couple of obvious changes to the production: the animatronic Dragon had been replaced by an impressive puppet, and although this switch chipped away at the creature’s intimidating grandeur, the puppet ended up being more interactive with the cast, creating a greater sense of presence on stage. A more unfortunate loss was that of Young Fiona in the song “I Know It’s Today” where we see the transition of Fiona from a young princess locked in a tower at day 23 to a fully-grown woman still waiting for her prince to come and rescue her at day 8400 days later. This rather pivotal part of the story and incredible casting of child actors has since been replaced with a puppet and puppet chorus.
Samuel Holmes’ portrayal of Lord Farquaad certainly stole the show with a performance that was nothing short of hilarious. Holmes’ commanded a presence on stage like no other, no easy fete given how he is the shortest character within the show. Donkey, performed by Marcus Ayton, provided another notable performance. As Shrek’s sidekick it can take a lot to upstage an Ogre, but this was all in a day’s work for this ‘Noble Stead’, and the level of sass was outstanding.
There was a clever use of functional yet ‘authentic’ costumes and make up, attuned to the animation, colourful lighting and an impressive use of projection and special effects that when combined with the upbeat music and interactive sets lead to a wholly immersive experience for the audience. Overall this musical was a magical and family friendly show that can be enjoyed by a diverse range of audiences. Whether you come for the story, the music or the theatrical wonder, I doubt you’ll be disappointed! And if you do get the chance to catch the show whilst on in Norwich, be sure to grab yourself a glass of refreshing Swamp Juice from the bar for a sweet and scrumptious drink with a hidden surprise.
Shrek the Musical is showing at the Norwich Theatre Royal from 26th June – 8th July.