Thursday, 18 January 2018

Shrek the Musical at The Palace Theatre, Manchester - A Review

What better way to shake off those January blues, than with a vibrant, hilarious and thoroughly entertaining musical production, that will have you grinning from ear to ear right from the very start. Suitable for audiences of all ages, Shrek the Musical delivers the perfect mix of adventure, romance and comedy that provides plenty of full on belly laughs throughout the show.

Based on the Oscar® winning DreamWorks Animation film, Shrek the Musical tells the tale of the giant green ogre Shrek, who with his new found friend and loyal steed Donkey, embarks on an adventure to save the beautiful Princess Fiona from her Dragon guarded tower. Having watched the film many times before, my family and I were very keen to see how this could be portrayed as a musical and we were therefore delighted to attend the show last night to see this for ourselves. We had somehow managed to resist all temptation of watching snippets of the show online, so the entire production was something completely new to my family and I, with no idea of exactly what to expect.

The opening scenes provided us with a short background on Shrek, which was smartly done in storybook form using clever stage techniques and lighting. This provided a gentle start to the show, which immediately drew audiences in as the storybook closed and we were transported to Shrek's home in the swamp accompanied with the catchy and upbeat opening song of "Big Bright Beautiful World".

Steffan Harri in the role of Shrek, has a fantastic stage presence with a wonderfully loud and clear singing voice that we were immediately captivated by. His charismatic charm helps to make his character immediately loveable, but lets face it, who could not fall in love with a larger than life, giant farting ogre?? It was evident from the beginning that Steffan Harri was really comfortable in this role and suited it perfectly. With an accurate representation of the Shrek we have come to know and love, we were definitely not disappointed with his portrayal.

Before long Shrek's swamp became inhabited by an abundance of fairytale characters and despite Shrek being a large and powerful figure, this didn't seem to take any of the attention away from the other members of the cast, which was great. We were able to focus on each one individually and it was at this point that my daughter commented how amazing the costumes all were, which is something I would definitely have to agree with. From Pinocchio to the Wolf and the Three Little Pigs to Little Red Riding hood, the detail in the costumes was just incredible and it was immediately possible to identify who each character was. The Three Little Pigs provided the first big laugh for me and I would have liked to have seen them more throughout the show as they definitely gave us a good giggle.

Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks
The next couple of scenes saw the introduction of Donkey, who is our favourite character in the film version. We really enjoyed watching the unlikely friendship being created, and Marcus Ayton in the role of Donkey, certainly brings his own individuality to the role. It is a great skill to be able to take a well known character and make it your own, but Marcus Ayton certainly has no trouble with this and his energy came across really well to the audience. His witty one-liners, exciteable stage presence and confident personality shine bright throughout the performance and teamed up alongside Steffan Harri as Shrek, they definitely make a highly entertaining duo.

Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks
Our surprise of the night however, came in the form of Lord Farquaad who soon became our main source of laughter throughout the evening. Samuel Holmes plays this character to absolute perfection and the comedy value he brought to the show was just wonderful. Providing the ideal combination of family friendly humour, along with a couple of cheeky innuendos for the grown ups, he quickly became our firm favourite of the night.

Samuel Holmes' past credits are both extensive and impressive and the person responsible for his casting in this role should be commended. Performing on stage to several musical extravaganzas whilst on your knees is certainly no easy task, yet Samuel Holmes not only makes this look simple, but also provides comedy and laughter in abundance. Every scene he appeared in was just so much fun and even when he wasn't speaking or singing, his facial expressions alone provided plenty of laugh out loud moments.

Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks
Princess Fiona is being played by Laura Main who is most well known for her role in all six series of Call the Midwife. My family and I really enjoyed her performance of 'I Know It's Today' where she was able to display a whole range of emotions from excitement to anger, whilst still telling her story beautifully through song. Another favourite (especially with my children) was the duet with Shrek in the second half of the show, with the song 'I Think I Got You Beat' which both children and adults alike found really funny. This is where Fiona's ogre personality was really emphasized, with a burping and farting competition at the end of the song being a particular highlight for my son, who could not stop laughing throughout.

A special mention must also be given to Lucinda Shaw who was the voice of The Dragon. Her tone was very powerful yet elegant and it was a delight to hear her sing. The voice matched the style and the movement of the on-stage dragon perfectly, which was gracefully manoeuvred around the stage by four puppeteers. I especially liked the fact that although The Dragon was large in presence, it wasn't particularly scary in appearance, which meant that some of the younger members of the audience had no reason to be afraid. My four year old son is very sensitive to 'scary things' such as dragons or dinosaurs and although he did not come to the show with us, I feel confident that he would have been quite comfortable.

It is particularly clear that this whole production is a superb team effort and whilst the four main characters each deliver their performance exceptionally well, the support from the ensemble is commendable with a great variety of amusing choreography, skilled acting and phenomenal voices. The orchestra were also wonderful and a delight to listen to, the character costumes were vibrant yet detailed, the make up was spot on and the stunning sets have clearly been well thought out in the design process. Collectively everything just seemed to go so well together which is a credit to not only those on stage, but also everyone working hard behind the scenes.

The overall production was outstanding and although I was sad when it came to a close, it certainly had the most uplifting and enjoyable ending to any musical I have seen. The atmosphere in the Palace Theatre was electric with excitement, as audience members began to sing and dance along to the finale number of 'I'm A Believer'. The production also left a great impression on my children who have not stopped talking about it since. My daughter is now more keen than ever to get involved with theatre and is determined to perform on stage in the future. This therefore shows that not only is this production a giant fun-filled shrek-tacular, but that it can also be inspirational to children too. In short, Shrek the Musical provides laughter in abundance, an exceptional cast and magnificent music, that is sure to deliver an enjoyable experience for all.

Listing Details

Show - Shrek the Musical
Venue - Palace Theatre Manchester, 97 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 6FT
Dates - Tuesday 16th January to Sunday 28th January
Times - Show times vary, so please visit the website for the most up to date information.
Ticket Prices - Ticket prices range from £18.00 - £56.00 (plus £4.00 booking fee)
Box Office - 0844 871 3019 (calls cost 7p per minute, plus phone company's access charge).
Website - www.atgtickets.com/shows/shrek/palace-theatre-manchester/

*Disclaimer - We received complimentary tickets for this show for the purpose of providing an honest review of our experience. Opinions are my own unless otherwise stated. This post contains an affiliate link.

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