(reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 10 June)
“Once upon a time…” usually leads to an ending along the lines of “…and they all lived happily ever after”. It’s the bits in between, of course, which make the real story – not its bookends. Shrek, as you probably know, started off as an illustrated children’s book in 1990, was turned into an animated film by DreamWorks in 2001; this is turn became the stage musical currently on a national tour.
Film into theatre doesn’t always work. The production values which tour director Nigel Harman has harnessed for the David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori piece are, to put it mildly, lavish. Tim Hatley’s sets, costumes, masks and puppet design are all splendid and the hard-working cast do them justice.
Dean Chisnall is the ogre who eventually does find his princess – but not by metamorphosing into a handsome prince. The audience is on his side right from the start. Faye Brookes as Fiona, slightly underpowered vocally, is a red-haired spitfire, the cantankerous side of feisty. Idriss Kargbo plays the street-wise, know-all Donkey, Sancho Panza to Shrek’s Don Quixote.
The villain of the story is Lord Farquaad, cleverly played on his knees with puppet legs and much cloak-swirling by Gerard Casey. The Dragon, manipulated by four bunraku-style handlers, is a triumph while Josh Prince’s choreography takes full advantage of the padded, glittering and gleaming nature of the dancers’ costumes.
Children of all ages who have grown up with the book and the film will love it. I rather suspect that their seniors will also enjoy it.
Shrek runs as the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 28 June.