Review: Shrek at The Palace Theatre

Pic Helen Maybanks
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Once upon a time, in a kingdom far far away…

Or that’s how it felt anyway when walking along Deansgate to the Palace Theatre in the pouring rain when Shrek the Musical came to Manchester.

A much-anticipated arrival after its success in both London and Edinburgh, opening night had the theatre packed to the rafters with an audience keen to see a theatrical version of the much-loved cinematic phenomenon which first graced our screens in 2001.

The show, written by David Lindsay-Abaire, includes some of the same hilarious anecdotes from the DreamWorks blockbuster.

It follows the film closely without being a carbon copy, and with some original songs plus a backstory for anyone who may not have seen the film.

Shrek, a lonely but apparently happy ogre is outraged to see his cosy, secluded swamp infiltrated by a cast of fairytale creatures who have been banished from Duloc under the orders of Lord Farquaard, an angry man embodying many a shortcoming, who dreams of becoming king and aims to do so by marrying Princess Fiona, who currently resides in the room of a tower and is guarded by a fire-breathing dragon.

As in the film, Shrek is tasked by Farquaard to rescue the Princess and deliver her to him in exchange for a life of solitude back at his swamp. With the help of his ‘noble steed’, Donkey, the pair set off on their journey which is predictably ensued with madness and random outbursts of song.

Pic Helen Maybanks

Steffan Harri plays a loveable and animated Shrek and is supported by the charming albeit unhinged Princess Fiona (Laura Main) who delivers an outstanding performance, particularly during the flawlessly executed Rat Dance tap number – an enchanting addition to the show.

Marcus Ayton gives a fantastic performance as Donkey, embodying every ounce of sass and hilarity we’ve come to expect from Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of the character, with the added bonus of some vivacious dance moves.

Samuel Holmes (Lord Farquaard) keeps the audience engaged with every yellow-lycra clad step (his real legs are strapped up behind a black curtain to add further hilarity to his performance).

A more misunderstood variation of the original John Lithgow portrayal, I much preferred Samuel Holmes’ take on the slightly-camp character and laughed along with the rest of the audience especially when wearing his ‘fully-functional’ steed, complete with working reverse lights.

The whole cast, especially the supporting fairytale creatures, are outstanding, with each character showcasing their individual talents during the high-spirited, shared numbers.

The set design is expertly concocted and is truly brought to life by the talented cast.

It’s an undeniably well-crafted show, albeit with a stronger second half, which succeeds in creating an all-round family fun experience. The music accompaniments are cleverly crafted and addictively toe-tapping, and the quips of the cast will definitely have you chuckling.

Its an evening of shrek-tacular entertainment.

Palace Theatre until Sunday 28 January 2018

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