I love Shrek. I have all 3 (We don’t talk about the fourth) on DVD. I watch them whenever I’m sad, or ill, or need a good movie. Shrek can never disappoint me (Again… we don’t talk about that fourth movie) and will always hold a special place in my heart. Therefore, as both a Shrek enthusiast and avid musical lover (As explained here), Shrek the musical is the dream.
When the Bristol Hippodrome press office reached out about me reviewing the touring production* it was an absolute no-brainer. In fact, when it first came to the UK 5 years ago, I tried to convince my friends to see it with me and nobody would. Being invited to the press night of the touring production 5 years later is a pretty great full circle moment for me.
What is Shrek the Musical?
It is exactly what it says on the tin. Some genius (Who probably, like me, was both a lover of musical theatre and an avid Shrek enthusiast) saw the Dreamworks animation and thought, “Hey, we should take this to Broadway”. For those who don’t know (Who are you?! Where have you been?!) Shrek is the magical story about our favourite green ogre who embarks on a quest to save a princess with the help of his unlikely companion, Donkey.
The musical version stays relatively true to the plot of the first movie. However, the musical numbers allow for more backstories and expressions of emotions. Not to mention, more chances for the other fairytale creatures of Duloc to shine.
How has it Changed Since Broadway?
As I mentioned in the introduction, I have wanted to see Shrek the Musical since I first heard about it. Therefore, after nobody would see it with me years ago, I made my parents buy me the DVD of the Broadway production when I saw it on sale for £5 in Sainsburys. I have watched the Broadway version and listened to the soundtrack more times than I care to admit, so I was really intrigued as to how this version would compare.
There have been some notable changes since its original Broadway runs. I don’t know whether these are changes that have naturally occurred over time, or the work of the director Nigel Harman, but they definitely had me taking notice.
I Know It’s Today
To start with, Fiona’s rendition of ‘I Know It’s Today’ was completely transformed in this version. The original saw Fiona’s growth in the castle, with the song beginning with a child actress, then the second verse being sung by a teen Fiona and the final by our older Fiona. I felt that this really sold her struggle in the castle in a cute and lighthearted way. However, this version chose to have a (Slightly shorter, eliminating the second verse) version sung solely by the fully grown Fiona, as she sung to her puppets that she made in her spare time. I won’t lie, I prefer the original version and found the puppets a fairly odd choice that didn’t add to the number.
The original version, if I remember correctly, did involve a moving dragon. However, there were also 3 singers that represented the dragon singing in the corner. In this version, the dragon was maneuvered by 3/4 men in dark suits, and there was no singer to be seen. I felt that this worked incredibly effectively, and allowed the dragon to look as realistic as a large puppet dragon can. The dragon was made beautifully and the movement used made the flying look incredibly fluid. My only qualm was that, in having the dragon sing off stage, I couldn’t assign the dragon’s amazing vocals to the person they belonged to. However, I was happy to see the voice of the dragon, Lucinda Shaw, come out in the final song!
I came in with high expectations, so it was likely that I would be disappointed. However, I can attest that I left the theatre with a ginormous grin. The touring production of Shrek comes at you with the same feel good humour as the movie. It is rife with fart jokes, innuendo and physical humour, as well as some truly amazing songs.
People hear Shrek and assume it that can’t be taken seriously, but this is not the case. Of course it stays true to its original childish nature, but it still has some breathtaking moments. Songs like the Travel Song, I Think I Got You Beat and Story Of My Life prove to be incredibly catchy. Then, you have songs such as Who I’d Be (My personal favourite), When Words Fail and the Finale that will have you reaching for the tissues and wondering why Shrek is making you feel things. Yes, it is filled with childish humour, but there’s just as much in there for the adults.
Like I mentioned earlier, I am a massive fan of the Broadway production. In fact, Sutton Foster (The original Broadway Fiona) and Christopher Seiber (The original Broadway Lord Farquaad) are big favourites of mine. Therefore, this cast had a lot to live up to.
In the first half, I felt that Amelia Lily (X Factor) was not the best Fiona. She chose to portray a far goofier version than Foster which I felt took the humour from subtle to more obvious, leaving some jokes to fall flat. However, she did far better in the second act! In fact, I may have actually prefered her version of ‘Morning Person’ to Foster’s! Her American accent definitely needs a bit of work. Though, overall, I left the performance content with her version, even if it took me a while to warm up to it.
I could not leave this review without talking about Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad. Yes, Lord Farquaad is a comical character, but his execution was flawless. Everything he did was brilliant: from his delivery of his 2 big numbers to his physical humour and innuendo. He had me excited for the next moment he’d be on stage – a true talent for someone playing a villain. He was definitely a standout in this performance, and I feel that he should be commended for that.
In all honesty, the cast were brilliant as a whole. The fairytale characters provided some brilliant, heartwarming ensemble performances and brightened up the stage with their costumes. Honourable mentions go to Thomas-Lee Kid as the wolf, Lord Farquaad’s team as a whole and, of course, Michael Carolan as Shrek.
I loved Shrek the Musical. However, I wouldn’t consider this a stand alone musical. To me, this is more of a beautiful addition to the Shrek franchise. If you are a lover of the movies this is the perfect next step to fill you with joy. As I said, it follows the same plot as the first movie. However, due to the added songs and backstories, it goes into a different level of the film.
Go to Shrek the Musical having seen the film. It can definitely be seen without – but this acts as the perfect accompaniment to the film.
Would I Recommend It?
Yes. Before seeing this I believed that you can never go wrong with Shrek, and this only strengthened that. It’s a great 3 hours of fun, perfect for some humour and light relief. You’re met with the charming Shrek you’ve seen pixelised, with the added magic of a musical theatre stage.
If you think this seems like something you’d want to see, you’ll be happy to hear that they’re still on tour! Check out the tour website here to find out when and where you can find the musical for yourself. If you want to see it in Bristol like I did, hurry! It’s only in Bristol until 19th August, so you’ve got to be quick!
Have you seen Shrek the Musical? Would You see it? Let me know in the comments!
Lots of love,
*DISCLAIMER* This review is not sponsored, but I was given a complimentary ticket to see this show. However, that does not affect the integrity of my review. All my thoughts and opinions are my own and I always work to keep my reviews genuine and honest.
The photos used in this post were not taken by me, and were provided for promotional purposes. Credit goes to Helen Maybanks.