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Shrek the Musical: Review

Updated on January 25, 2016

Shrek Takes a Sly Dig at Disney

Since it hit the big screen to critical acclaim 15 years, Shrek has remained somewhat of an acquired taste. It stood out for its big and brazen noise in taking Disney’s saccharine moments to the cleaners all for the good of a laugh.

Shrek the Musical has plenty to play with then in translating the movie into a rather chaotic and quirky romp through the swamp to the final and most unlikely of true romances.

Strong Performances from Shrek Cast

By and large the heart (and fart) of the story is recreated with Dean Chisnall reprising his role from the West End as the main character. As the antisocial ogre sent away by his parents into the world, his adventures lead him to a friendship with a rat-a-tat-tat talking donkey (Idriss Kargbo) and ultimately the rescue of a princess from the clutches of the wickedly evil Lord Farquaad (Gerard Carey)

Chisnall is particularly good at more contemplative moments in the production, showing off an excellent voice on the quieter songs that proclaim his love for Fiona. The princess (Bronte Barbe) has the right mix of feistiness, free spirit and fusion with Shrek. She doesn’t own the stage but in a musical that has no “huge” performance, she certainly struts around with a confidence that exudes fun. Perhaps the Friday audience was lacking somewhat in the true spirit of interaction, to the point where the two big placards with “laugh” on them were probably needed more in all seriousness than in jest.

Musical Highlights and Donkey

In terms of musical numbers, the Shrek and Fiona duet “I Think I Got You Beat” is a real winner, as is “Things are Looking up in Duloc” where we get introduced to Lord Farquaad. Carey absolutely steals the show at times with an impish performance as he has free reign as much as his small artificial legs will carry him. The facial nuances are the key allied to the ridiculous over the top liberality of it all.

If there is one slight disappointment in terms of central characterisation, it is in the casting of Donkey. The energy is there in abundance but Kargbo doesn’t have the audience in stitches as they should be. He appears too lightweight in the role, despite the boundless running about and twitching in all the right places. There are some nice one-liners that just pass by in the tumbleweed, perhaps partly due to a lacklustre audience but also as the interaction with Shrek never quite takes off. When Chisnall reaches out to his animal friends over a shaky bridge, there is no feel for the growth of the bond. It is all too functional.

Dragon as Impressive as War Horse

The supporting cast including Pinocchio, the witch and Three Little Pigs add to the spectacle and the Gingerbread Man's animation is backed up by a superb voice that evokes the sheer lunacy of the film’s best moments.

The choreography from the marching soldiers to the musical numbers based around the castle is excellent. The Dragon is superbly handled although its appearances are all too brief, perhaps understandably so, given the multiple puppeteers needed to move it around. The movements and subtleties of the monster are given extra uplift by the velvet singing voice supplied by Candace Furbert.

The show noticeably kicks up its feet in the second half after a slightly disengaging first half hour, but there is always enough going on to ensure that interest cannot fall away.


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