Orbit’s production of ‘Shrek the Musical’ landed in the New theatre last night and exceeded all of my expectations. It was on par with the other mainstream touring productions, I have seen in the past. This production was fun for the whole family. Not only was this show appropriate for children, as there were jokes and fart gags, but also it provided material for the adult section of the audience, through the use of innuendos. Obviously, this musical is based on the Shrek films, which follows Shrek and his new road trip buddy Donkey, as they are sent on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona and offer her to Lord Farquadd, so he can become King. Eventually, Fiona and Shrek fall in love by learning to accept who they are and as one of the most heartwarming lines in the entire musical states, learn that beauty isn’t always pretty. In the beginning, there were a few problems with microphones not being on, which was frustrating, but this did improve throughout the show.
The endurance of the Shrek franchise is incredible. The first Shrek film was released eighteen years ago and it still continues to be one of the most popular animated films to-date, which I think is because of the striking characters. Orbit managed to perfectly bring each and every one of those over-the-top fairytale characters to life, starting with Shrek. Shrek was played by Matt Preece, who managed to balance the likeability of the character, with the characters apparent hatred for the world around him. In my opinion, this makes the character of Shrek hard to play, as you have to be rude and aggressive, whilst at the same time creating softness and relatability from the audience, but Matt managed to do this with ease.
Donkey, as played by Mat Hole, is an energetic role that provides many of the laughs throughout the Show. Donkey is a character that is looking for a friend, as he is being chased by Farquaad’s evil knights and is overjoyed when he comes across Shrek. Mat’s portrayal managed to portray this desperation for a friend and also show the coolness of the movie’s character. The highlight of his performance was “Don’t let me go” as well as his constant hilarious facial reactions. Fiona, played by Lizzie Burges, kept her blind and at times, often grating optimism, as well as acting terrified of revealing her biggest secret.
Lord Farquadd is, in my opinion, one of the best roles in this musical. This character, played by Lewis cook, is the villain of the story, but at the same time is hilarious. During this show, part of Lewis’ costume fell off and this became a running gag (improvised of course) by Lewis in every scene possible. This quick thinking and improvisation is a credit to Lewis’ acting abilities and also provided many laughs throughout.
The dragon guarding Fiona’s castle is an iconic role, that has one of the most difficult vocals in the entire show. Jenny Brock, who played this role, executed it perfectly and made the singing seem effortless. The dragon itself was almost a plush dragon that had many people controlling it. This meant the penultimate scene required lights and more technical planning, than if it was part of the wall behind them, as seen in other productions.
The highlight of this entire production for myself personally, was Pinocchio. Although he is left off the main roles list, I would argue that Dan-Ivor Jones, upstaged the rest of the cast. His characterisation including the voice of Pinocchio was spot on, his singing was incredible and the technicalities of his nose, were executed flawlessly. Jones is extremely talented and I cannot wait to see him playing other roles in the future. There were only a few issues character-wise in this production. Firstly, in “Freak Flag” the puppet Gingy’s voice was not consistent. I understand this is due to the fact that someone else is creating the voice and singing but this was easily noticeable. Also, I was a little disappointed with the lacklustre gender reveal of the big bad wolf.
However, the choreography of this production was amazing. Even the young children on stage, executed the choreography perfectly and matched the energy and effort of the older cast members. A very interesting song in this production was “Forever” where some of the men in the production performed a dance, whilst in stocks, which was really entertaining to watch. The costumes showcased in this show, apart from the big bad wolves, revealed undergarments, which were incredible and only added to the cartoony and family-friendly vibe of the show. This family oriented atmosphere, was only improved by the cartoon-like set and projections that appeared on stage all the way through the show.
Overall, this show was a fun-filled family friendly production that brought to life the fun and deeper message of the Shrek films, whilst showcasing the talent of the cast. I would rate this show 4 and a half stars out of five and would encourage everyone to buy and ticket and watch this show, as it’s definitely a show not to miss.
Article by Rhys Payne