Touring – reviewed at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Fun and silly entertainment for the whole family, the beloved film translates well on to the stage.
Once upon a time, this writer paid a visit to Woking to watch this delightfully funny production which captures the spirit of the original film that its based on faithfully. In fact, there are moments in which the musical is too faithful to the film to have a voice and personality of its own.
This touring production is directed by Nigel Harman (who knows the show well having previously played Lord Farquaad himself) who presents a show that is so full of life and personality that it is difficult not to be swept along by the characters and the story – even if the music and lyrics occasionally let the show down.
Shrek follows the quest of one ogre as he (with the help of a chatterbox donkey) sets out to rescue Princess Fiona from her dragon-protected tower to bring her to Lord Farquaad in order to get rid of the magical creatures who are living in his swamp. Along the way, he learns about the power of friendship, love and the importance of believing in yourself.
Visually, there is plenty to enjoy about this production, which has been imaginatively conceived. For example, the opening number ‘Big Bright Beautiful World’ sets the show up nicely, taking place in a gigantic storybook with lovely projections as the pages turn and automatically puts a smile on the audience’s face. I was also curious to see how the dragon would appear on stage and I wasn’t disappointed by the gigantic puppet (that looks exactly like the dragon in the film) swooping around the stage with surprising ease.
But where the show is slightly let down is its music and lyrics. It just doesn’t feel as though there are many memorable tunes – except for ‘Welcome to Duloc’ and ‘I’m a Believer’ from the original film. However, in certain songs there is an emotional chord that works well with what the message of the story is all about – particularly in ‘When Words Fail’ and ‘Story of My Life’.
It also feels as though the musical is slightly too faithful to the film, retaining many of the lines we know and love that means that it doesn’t feel as though it is confident enough to bring something new and fresh to the story and characters.
However, in terms of performances there are some delightful ones who bring the characters to life with style and flair. As Shrek himself, Steffan Harri offers a nicely balanced performance as an ogre with a heart who struggles to express that he actually needs friendship and love in his life. His performance is lively and sincere throughout.
Meanwhile, as Princess Fiona, Laura Main offers a refreshing portrayal of the Princess who seems to be rather eccentric after all those years locked away in the tower but is still endearing and likeable. You get a real sense of how much fun she is having when she is singing ‘I Think I Got You Beat’ along with Steffan Harri.
But it is certainly Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad who gives the standout performance. His dry sense of humour and comical walk provide countless moments of laughter from the older and younger members of the audience. His performance consistently commands the attention of the audience – still delightfully villainous but somehow still likeable!
Filled with plenty of laughter and fun, it is safe to say the audience left the theatre with a spring in their step and a smile on their face thanks to Shrek and his loveable fairytale companions.