Milton Keynes Theatre
Once upon a time there was a princess called Jasmine Storm and she wished with all her heart that Shrek, the musical, would meet her expectations. And her dreams came true and she lived happily ever after.
If you could look at the seven year old inside of you, they would want to see this show. Every child and if they are honest, every adult will enjoy this show as it has something for everyone. But it works best if you remember that seven year old – then it is magical. The show is set around the story of the first Shrek film and starts with a ‘once upon a time’ from a book and the characters step out of the book. The seven year old inside me gasped. This really is magical!Dean Chisnall plays Shrek and this is a tough part. Shrek is in almost every scene and to speak and sing with a Scottish accent cannot be easy (unless you are from Scotland of course). He performs this role perfectly as if he just stepped out from the film.
Princess Fiona is a sassy princess played by Bronte Barbe and she gives a great balance about being a modern day princess – day to day boredom of being locked in a tower against the romantic backdrop of being rescued. Everyone knows that a princess waits for a prince to rescue her – but during the song ‘I know it’s today’ you can see she is getting a bit frustrated with the waiting. This is a fabulous song and features Princess Fiona at three different ages. There is a scene in the second act where she helps the pied piper and does a tap dance with rats. Is there no limit to her talents? It is a great all round performance by Barbe.Every fairy-tale needs a baddie and Lord Farquaad fits the bill in Shrek. He is also very very funny. Played by Gerard Carey, he gives such a funny performance that the whole audience was in stitches. His performance was in places reminiscent of Frank n’ Further from The Rocky Horror Show but whatever F he is playing, it works. There are lots of jokes about his height and the chorography has been tailored to make this even funnier. A brilliant performance.
Donkey is known for being a funny character and gets some great one-liners such as ‘I’m a GPS with fur’ when telling Shrek about directions to Duloc. His first scene with the Dragon is another moment where the seven year old inside me gasped. The dragon is played with puppets but is so big it is breath-taking as was the dragon’s voice when she sang. It was stunning.The cast does not hold any household names that are instantly recognisable, but actually that is a benefit as it means the cast have been chosen for their talents alone and that is what is evident throughout this show. Each character is perfectly defined and obvious as to whom they are supposed to be. Pinocchio has the perfect voice to match his personality and his nose actually does get bigger! There is also the Ugly Duckling, Peter Pan, The Big Bad Wolf and the three little (or not so little cause they are fat) pigs. And of course The Gingerbread Man, well he knows the muffin man…yes the muffin man! It’s all your childhood fairy-tales in one. And if you know them it is even more fun…The Three Bears (from Goldilocks) are told to stand near Pinocchio. Too close. Too far. Just right. It’s these touches that give the show its magic.
The songs are all original and written especially for the show. A favourite is ‘Let your freak flag fly’ which gives all the fairy-tale characters a chance to perform individually. It’s also a song with a moral and that moral is - be proud of who you are and don’t let others pull you down. Every fairy tale needs a moral at the heart of its story. And it’s the small details that made this show extra special. It’s the nod to The Lion King, the Les Mis flag, ‘The Donkees’ on the drum kit (as a reference to The Monkees who originally sang I’m a believer). It’s like someone has sprinkled magic fairy dust on the show.
This show has feel good all over it and it’s one of those rare opportunities to get the whole family together to share something away from online gaming and daily stresses. Just to be sure it’s is suitable for all ages – I took the harshest critic I could find – my 18 year old. And yes he loved it proving it is truly suitable for all ages – even that difficult teenager age.Shrek is currently playing at Milton Keynes Theatre until 6 September so there is still plenty of time to stand up and say ‘I’m a believer’.