Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Larger than life and visually stunning, Shrek the Musical arrived at Manchester’s Palace theatre this week for a two week stop as part of a new UK and Ireland tour. Based on William Steig’s children’s book and the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film, Shrek (Steffan Harri) is the story of one seriously green ogre who falls in love with the beautiful Princess Fiona (Laura Main), sadly leaving the safety of the swamp is no fairytale and our Herculean hero soon finds himself battling a fire-breathing dragon to rescue Princess Fiona from her prison tower in order to deliver her to a very vertically challenged Lord Farquaad (Samuel Holmes) in return for his swamp back.
Steffan Harri is exceptional as Shrek, loveable and enormously charismatic he has the audience in the palm of his hand from his very first fart! His accent is superb and authentic, accompanied by a strong singing voice to match up to his enormous personality.
Tour director Nigel Harman has focussed on ensuring individual performers really get their chance to shine in this current incarnation, no more so than Shrek’s loyal steed Donkey, portrayed to perfection by Marcus Ayton. A little underused in previous productions his great one-liners, exaggerated expressions and hilarious bray ensure this Donkey has some serious stage presence, without doubt the best portrayal of Donkey I’ve seen.
Samuel Holmes makes for a delightfully devilish Lord Farquaad, outrageously camp & completely hysterical he shines in the role and thrills the audience. He makes the challenging part, delivered almost entirely on his knees, look effortless as he struts around the stage full of sass & swagger.
Call The Midwife’s Laura Main as Princess Fiona is on fine form, the chemistry between her & Steffan Harri (Shrek) heartwarming to watch, their duet ‘I think I got you beat’ is a real highlight of the show which has the audience crying with laughter.
Tim Hatley’s set, costume and puppet design are top class, the constantly changing set, boosted by Duncan McLean’s projections is bold and striking, as are the incredibly intricate costumes and as for the dragon, well you’ll just have to watch and see.
There are some slight changes from previous productions with Act 1 feeling a little slower in pace in parts, Act 2 however quickly picks things up & its full steam ahead until the finale. The introduction of puppets to the song ‘I know it’s today’ didn’t quite work and changed the delivery of the number entirely. The show benefits from an incredibly talented ensemble taking on various parts including the fairytale characters, Lord Farquaad’s guards & the residents of Duloc, Shrek the musical proves there’s an enormous amount of love for the smelly green ogre and his uplifting tale. The score doesn’t have any ear worms you’ll be humming much after you’ve left the show but the hilarious script & spectacular visuals will leave you charmed. Not only does it poke fun at the classic fairy tales we all know and love but there’s some brilliant musical theatre parodies dotted throughout.
Shrek is an enormously fun production, with a cheeky humour that casts its magic on all ages. The traditional is turned upside down as this all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza delivers a special message right from its giant green heart, that we’re all special & we should fly those freak flags high & proud, a perfect introduction to musical theatre.
Shrek the Musical is on at the Palace theatre until Sunday 28th January tickets available here.