Theatre Review: Shrek The Musical at Wales Millennium Centre

I really enjoyed the first Shrek the movie although the sequels disappointed, and was curious to see how it would translate to the stage as a musical, taking MWF as part of her birthday celebrations.

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The story is the same, ogre Shrek (Dean Chisnall) is annoyed that various fairytale creatures have been relocated to his swamp as the local lord wants his kingdom to be perfect and views them as freaks. He sets off to Duloc to sort this out on the way rescuing a talking Donkey (Idriss Kargbo), and reluctantly agreeing to letting him tag along as a guide.

At Duloc they make a deal with Lord Farquaad (Gerard Carey) that Shrek gets his swamp back if he goes and rescues Princess Fiona (Bronte Barbe). If Fiona marries Farquaad he will become a king.

Fiona has been trapped in a tower eagerly awaiting a white knight figure, so how will she react when Shrek arrives? And can he beat a dragon?

I rather enjoyed the show which had some great  touches and some toe tapping songs, but it fails to match the movie and a few aspects could have been better.

First, the good news. The story works on stage and the songs are pretty good across the board, nailing the source’s knack for spoofing fairytales and including more adult gags snuck in.

The jokes come steadily and there were several big laughs throughout, some for kids, some for adults and some for both. The one problem was that it did rely heavily on fart gags in some places.

Translating it to the stage was a challenge due to a few of the fairytale creatures but these were done well. Innovative set design meant it managed to capture the different settings and the makeup on the title character was well done.

I was also extremely impressed with how they did the gingerbread man and the dragon, who’s role they beefed up considerably.

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The flaws came from the fart gags and some of the cast. As Fiona, Barbe nailed the singing but her comedic abilities weren’t the best and she was guilty of a few moments where she was a bit too shrill. But the major weakness was Idriss Kargbo as Donkey.

I appreciate it’s based on a movie but many diverged from the original performance (Shrek wasn’t Scottish and Farquaad was different from John Lithgow’s work on screen) but a couple tried too hard to stick with how they were in film, most notably Pinocchio and Donkey. Kargbo tried, and failed, to mimic Eddie Murphy and it just came across as a poor impersonation. He would have done far better to try and do the character his own way, as he just fell short and it all felt forced.

As the title role Chisnall was decent enough, but the show was stolen by Gerard Carey as Farquaad. They made the character more lascivious and Caret seemed to relish hamming it up as the villain. The best idea was to have Carey kneel throughout, with fake legs on his thighs, in order to copy the character’s shortness. This was constantly amusing and allowed for some great sight gags, Carey overshadowed everyone and the Farquaad translation to stage was the one that worked best.

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It was fun and entertaining, but suffered due to a few performances and the fact it couldn’t match the movie, but still a decent show and MWF enjoyed.

7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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