Review: Shrek the musical at The Opera House is ‘Shrek-tacular, delightful and fantastic’

A hot new show has made its way into town and it is spectacular… Or should I say Shrek-tacular?!

Shrek the Musical has brought its best and brightest to Manchester’s Opera House this week and it could not be a more perfect way to kick start the summer holidays!

The entire family will devour his jam-packed, delightful show!

Shrek the Musical

Based on the smash hit 2001 fantasy comedy animation by DreamWorks, Shrek the Musical honours the established story but punctuates the sequence of events with a new score and original songs such as ‘Travel Song’, ‘Forever’, and ‘When Words Fail’.

David Lindsay-Abaire provides the lyrics and adapts the book to accommodate the new melodies and the accompanying music is provided by Jeanine Tesori.

The structure of the narrative follows closely the story we already know and love, but the added songs create a deeper depth and complexity to these characters that are new.

Shrek in the Swamp

We are introduced to our beloved anti-hero, Shrek, with a back story and establishment of his childhood, wherein at the age of seven he was told to go and live the rest of his life alone.

This journey eventually leads him to find the precious swap that he calls home.

After years of contentment, his land is in disarray as fairytale creatures from Duloc are evicted from their homes and sent to live in the woods.

Shrek sets off on a quest to get Lord Farquaad to remove these beings from his swamp.

Along the way, he picks up his iconic sidekick, Donkey, only to be handed another quest by Farquaad, which is essentially an instruction to do his dirty work.

Farquaad wants to accelerate his title from Lord to King by marrying a princess.

He has heard the tale of a princess trapped at the top of a tower, encircled by lava and protected by a fire-breathing dragon, and determined she is to be his bride.

Rescuing Princess Fiona in return for restoring peace at the swamp is the bargain Farquaad proposed to Shrek, and he accepts…

The Phenomenal Cherece Richards

Cherece Richards is phenomenal.

There are no two ways about it, she slays as the Dragon.

She brings the vocals, the presence, and the attitude, and works so well with the larger-than-life puppet of the head and body of Dragon.

Everyone’s favourite biscuit, Gingy, is exactly as you would want him to be.

Detailed with gumdrop buttons, the famous gingerbread character is personified onstage by Georgie Buckland who does it fantastically!

Gingy’s talking voice is just how you’d hear it in the movie, yet in songs like ‘Freak Flag’ we see Buckland shine, giving Gingy a vocal range no one could have expected!

James Gillan as Lord Farquaad

James Gillan embodies Lord Farquaad, the famously short, arrogantly pompous Lord that everyone loves to hate.

He is despicable but so funny.

His oversized costumes help create the illusion on stage that he is very small indeed – even though he and Fiona stand roughly at the same height on stage! Gillan brings a flamboyance to Farquaad, camping up the character brilliantly.

If Shrek the Musical is a show for kids, Farquaad is the adult’s entertainment.

Brandon Lee Sears as Donkey

Brandon Lee Sears definitely does Donkey justice.

While Sears honours the cheeky, cheesy qualities of the animated character, he puts his own stamp on Donkey, bringing him up to speed and keeping him as warm and lovable as ever.

Joanne Clifton as Fiona

Our Princess Fiona is introduced through the song ‘I Know It’s Today’, where we see her first as a child (Natasha Cayabyab), newly locked in the tower, then as a teen (Bethany Kate), and finally Joanne Clifton as the current Fiona.

The transitions with these actors allow the audience to watch Fiona grow up, trapped in the tower, and the song provides layers to her character that are previously unseen.

Clifton is a wonderful Fiona, strong-willed and level-headed.

She is a triple threat, as demonstrated by her amazing tap sequence with the rats, and oh so funny.

And of course, what would Shrek the Musical be without the main man himself?

Antony Lawrence brings the animation to life with his Shrek, with the aid of a clearly distinguishable costume and lots of green paint.

Lawrence’s emotional and comic deliverance lets us see Shrek’s vulnerable side (Ogres are like onions! They have layers!) which has us all rooting for him from the very start.

The staging makes use of many different curtains of varying densities which allow for multiple scene settings.

The dense curtain of vines places us into a thick wood, while alternatively some of the thinner curtains have images of a woodland path projected onto it.

The field of sunflowers is another projection, as well as the city of Duloc, Shrek’s swamp, Fiona’s tower, and the field with the barn where Fiona makes camp for the evening of her last night with Shrek and Donkey.

The latter was especially clever, as when Fiona is in the barn, the curtain becomes translucent so that she can be seen and heard from inside.

At the beginning of the show, and again after the interval, a storybook is projected, which is animated with turning pages so the audience can read the book, establishing the setting further.

Philip Whitcomb, the set and costume designer deserves a great deal of credit for his work here.

The costumes are fantastic, so true to the original film, and the sets are spectacular.

The puppet of the vivid pink, flying Dragon is incredible, and Richards’ costume for the role is even better – sparkling, dazzling, and bright pink.

Some of the scenes on stage look like they have been pulled out of the film and projected onto a screen – that’s how good the actors, costumes, set props and everything else are!

Shrek the Musical is a remarkable show that all ages will engage with.

There really is something for everyone in this show.

Whether it be an evening out with the family, children, parents, adults, friends, or dates, you will leave with a smile on your face.

It’s hard not to when the encore consists of the cast singing ‘I’m a Believer’ with the audience!

For lovers of the original source material, there are lots of quotes and phrases that have made it into the show, so you will not be disappointed.

They even retain ‘Welcome to Duloc’ which is a real winner.

Shrek the Musical has made camp at Manchester’s Opera House and is running until Saturday 12th August.

Tickets start at just £13, and the show runs for about 2 hours 25 minutes with a 20-minute interval.

You can grab your tickets by clicking here

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