'Shrek The Musical' is an enjoyable on-stage recreation of an iconic (non-musical) film, and its songs, characters and beloved storyline make for a good night at the theatre.
There's a lot of pressure riding on a task such as this one: writing music for a stage show in the hopes of it being an end product equally as appealing as its source material. Luckily, David Lindsay-Abaire gets it just over the line. There are some great songs, highlights including Fiona's 'I Know It's Today' and 'Morning Person', Shrek and Fiona's 'I Think I Got You Beat', The Dragon's 'Forever' and of course the pre-existing crowd-pleaser 'I'm A Believer'.
Without wanting to, I found myself constantly making comparisons to the Dreamworks film. Things that were different in a good way, and things that were different in a not-so-good way. It would have been refreshing to see the show taking a few more risks in terms of the plot, however that's another challenge in constructing a musical from a film: is it worth changing or adding too much if the story is already so well-loved?
The introduction of Lord Farquaad's father backstory is a positive example of one of few new additions to the story.
Image © Brian Geach
Ben Mingay is great as the grumpy titular role, nailing the overall demeanour (emphasis on 'mean'!) of the ogre, and Nat Jobe is electric as the bounding, euphoric Donkey. The pair share excellent chemistry on stage and are convincing in their feelings toward each other. The show is written in a way which makes the evolution of character relationships (Shrek and Donkey, Fiona and Shrek) feel real, not forced, and satisfying to see unfold.
Lucy Durack is spellbinding as Fiona. Having garnered acclaim for her role as Glinda in 'Wicked' (a princess in her own right), it's no surprise her efforts here pay off. Lucy is a great vehicle for Fiona's strength, and determination for happiness.
The vocals of Marcia Hines are such a delight to witness in The Dragon's song 'Forever'. Her part in the show, though limited, is impressive and had me smiling from ear to ear.
But it's Todd McKenney who puts a cherry on top of this show as Lord Farquaad. Walking around for an entire show on your knees (covered by tiny fake legs to simulate shortness) is certainly no mean feat, and this stunt doesn't take itself too seriously (thank goodness, because how could it?). Todd milks the awkwardness of this whole situation by taking unnatural, exaggerated strides, and breaking the fourth wall to maximise comedic impact. . . To great effect.
Image © Brian Geach
While the show as a whole is funny, Todd's arrival to the stage each time is the guarantee of imminent belly laughs.
Harry Gregson-Williams' 'Fairytale' theme from the 'Shrek' films is so iconic and such a recognisable stamp on 'Shrek''s legacy that it was a shame not to hear it here, where it could have perhaps been turned into a full-blown musical number with lyrics, or just used as the overarching melody of the show. But, there's all sorts of legal mumbo-jumbo and proceedings in making that happen, so it's okay. And hey, they got 'I'm A Believer', and everyone knows that one. . . So naturally it was a fantastic way to end the show.
An already watertight, globally-recognised story brought to life on the stage by a robust cast keep 'Shrek The Musical' on its big, green feet. The music by David Lindsay-Abaire is a decent, fun bolt-on and is sure to entertain audiences of all ages.
'Shrek The Musical' is now playing at Queensland Performing Arts Centre.