Shrek the Musical
This very decent account of a show about decency makes good use of the delights of the splendid Bob Hope Theatre. Director Sarah Chapman ensures that every inch of the large stage is used (this show was originally intended for the larger Churchill Theatre Bromley, pre-Pandemic) and that the action spills engagingly onto the side steps and the gap between the pit and the front row. Steve Trill, meanwhile, and his nine piece band in said pit gives us a lot of pleasing sound.
Shrek the Musical is a celebration of otherness. One of its best lines is “Beautiful ain’t always pretty” in this piece in which the “monster” gets the princess without turning into a prince and that’s very 2022. It’s also a fine choice for an enthusiastic amateur company because it features a big cast with lots of tasty cameo roles among all those feisty fairy tale characters who form the main ensemble. No wonder there are so many productions of it about at present.
Ellie Mulhern is outstanding as Princess Fiona. She dances with verve, sings with passion and twinkles attractively as well as being believably naturalistic. Michael Flanagan finds a lot of witty physicality in the persistence of Donkey and he, too, has strong stage presence. Jamie Fillery excels as the appalling Lord Farquaad and Laura Whittingham is very successful as Dragon and Wicked Witch – what a voice!
Shrek is a difficult part to play because this ogre is meant to be quiet and self-effacing in contrast with almost everyone else on stage. Ian Chapman begins so mildly that you hardly notice him but he grows as the show goes on. By the time he gets to falling in love with Fiona we are very much on his side.
The ensemble numbers – including the post curtain “I’m a Believer” are lively and entertaining, imaginatively choreographed by William and Jenni Rye. And both the dragon and the plastic horse are very show stoppers.
A cast this size ensures an audience brimming over with supportive enthusiasm so that the atmosphere feels like a family party and that’s good to see and hear after so long. I hope, however, that someone sorts out the sound system for the rest of the run. There was a great deal of crackle and incidents of radio mics cutting out at the performance I saw.
First published by Sardines: https://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/review/shrek-the-musical-6/