Skip to main content

Review of Shrek the Musical at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

When Shrek the Musical rolls into town, it arrives in seven great big lorries, and this actually says a little as to where the strength of this production, now well into its UK tour, lies. This show looks spectacular in every way, it might be the best looking and the biggest tour show you will have ever seen. However, at times, this spectacle feels a little superficial, as you feel more thought could have been put into the original writing.

Shrek the Musical mostly follows the story of the original 2001 computer-animated film, which sees ogre Shrek's swamp overrun by fairytale folk, which results in him confronting the evil Lord Farquaad, which then results in him going to rescue Princess Fiona, as you do.

What feels missing though in this musical (book by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori), compared with the film, is the clever balance for children and adults alike. This nearly always feels targeted more at adults, there is a lack of humour that feels just right for children, even the famous fart and burping jokes don't really make an impact until Shrek and Fiona perform I Think I Got You Beat in the second act. And I definitely never thought I would complain about a lack of fart jokes.

The songs also generally feel grown-up, and very often quite worthy in manner. They certainly run the full gamut of influence, as Shrek tries to be, during its two hours or so, every musical you have ever seen. Throwing in nods to everything from The Lion King and Les Miserables and a bit of tap dancing as well, it all leaves it feeling that it is trying to be a musical catalogue, rather than its own thing.

However, negatives aside, as well as looking sublime, this is an exceptionally well-performed show. Steffan Harri as Shrek is jolly and likeable, and full of enough character to make the show flow. Portraying emotion from under a mass of green and prosthetics could be almost impossible, but Harri does the job well, it's just a shame that the character is sadly one of the duller written characters, considering he is the lead.

Much better realised is Princess Fiona, and Laura Main is superb as the awkwardly postured character. Hunched over often, and cleverly hiding her other form through a glorious collection of slightly masked facial grimaces. She also holds a tune, and has one of the most buoyant songs of the show, in Morning Person.

Marcus Ayton distances himself from Eddie Murphy's Donkey, bringing about a different camp and cool world to the character, and genuinely making him quite entertaining, if a little annoying at times, although, that is the point.

Finally, of the four leads, is both the character and performance that just blatantly steals the entire show, that of Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad. A physically brilliant performance, a clearly sung one, and a comically timed one of perfection makes the role a brilliant one in itself. This coupled with the fact that he has the best lines, the best creation and many of the best songs, and you have a character that you don't wish to leave the stage. The show is all the better for Farquaad, and when he is not there, the show is always weaker because of it.

It's a vast criticism of the show really, that they have stacked it all on the shoulders of one character, and whenever he is around, it is a five-star feast of hilarity and brilliance, which deflates everything he is absent from.

For a musical, there is a distinct lack of catchy numbers (Story of my Life is pretty much as good as it gets), they mostly strive for comedy, rather than being really well-remembered numbers. They tick too many boxes of styles from other shows, and as a result, you leave with the fifty odd year old I'm A Believer in your head, rather than anything written for the show.

Technically, Shrek the Musical is an incredible beast. There are some brilliant projections, clever special effects, the Gingerbread Man is great, but it's a bit of a shame that the controller is also the voice, making it all a little silly in a peekaboo nature. Add in some very Avenue Q puppets, and a tremendous dragon, that is a stunning bit of stage work, and you will definitely get enjoyment from the show in that respect.

It is though a shame that this isn't a better-written show, especially to give more to the younger members of the audiences. However, the enthusiasm of both the excellent cast, this has a very strong cast for the minor roles, and the energy from the audience, who do definitely try to get into the show, help it still become an entertaining night out, but perhaps not one you will remember in the years to come.

Entertaining and visually superb, but a little shallow in some parts of the swamp.
½

Performance reviewed: Thursday 15th March 2018 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.
Shrek the Musical runs at the Royal & Derngate until Sunday 25th March 2018 before continuing its tour. Details at https://shrekthemusical.co.uk/buy-tickets/

For further details about the Royal & Derngate see their website at royalandderngate.co.uk


Photos: Helen Maybanks

Popular posts from this blog

Review of the University Of Northampton BA (Hons) Acting Graduate Showcase at Leicester Square Theatre, London

The Graduate Showcase was pretty exciting even for me, so heaven knows how it was for the actors actually taking part. Here I was in a gathering of around twenty people (all others infinitely more important than me) at a special closed event at a West End theatre, complete with free drinks and buffet. Fortunately I had Mr Jim aka @mudbeast76 to keep me on the straight and narrow of juices after the one alcoholic one went straight to the head drink. Then as if it wasn't a surreal world as it was, there only goes and walks in Lukewarm himself, Christopher Biggins!

However, this isn't about me, this is about the thirty six ultra talented individuals who after I have followed them for a bit over a year are about to venture forth into the big competitive world of the acting community. They have though the double advantage of not only coming through the excellent three years University Of Northampton training and also being rather talented to help them in this.

This being my first s…

Review of Touching The Void at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

For those unfamiliar with this story, this review tells more than you might want to know ahead of seeing it. So, the short review for those who don't know the story of Joe Simpson, go and see this play and then come and read this review if you wish.

Staging the 1985 tale of Joe Simpson and his somewhat unbelievable, if it wasn't true, escape from surviving three days without food and water, a 150 foot fall previous, and following breaking his leg a previous, previous, seems an insurmountable challenge, but with the clever work of writer David Greig, director Tom Morris, and designer Ti Green and the rest of the creative team, we manage during a long and pulsating evening of theatre to reach that peak.

Following a short sequence of flashes of what is to come, we join Simon (Edward Hayter), Richard (Patrick McNamee) and Sarah (Fiona Hampton) at the wake of Joe Simpson, imagined for the stage and a neat way of introducing us to the story. Here Sarah, Joe's sister becomes the …

Review of Benidorm Live at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

I arrived at Milton Keynes Theatre to see this touring stage version of ITV comedy hit Benidorm with a distinct lack of knowledge. Having never seen the show, my information stretched as far as knowing it was set in a holiday resort in Spain (the title helps there), and that the humour generally resorted to the cruder end of the spectrum. However, having graced the screens for ten years, it was clear that Derren Litten's show had garnered quite a following, and indeed it was clear from the reception of the audience on the night, that this following was pretty much filling the theatre.

The plot, such as it is for this stage show, is very much drafted from an episode of Fawlty Towers, and made a great deal more adult with its humour. The hotel manager, Joyce Temple-Savage (a sharp performance by Sherrie Hewson) gets wind that a hotel inspector is in, and the scene is set for seeking them out and all the obvious cases of mistaken identity. It's thin and doesn't fill the show,…