We all know the animated film – based on the adventures of unlikely besties, Shrek and Donkey, as they endeavour to complete their quest of defeating the dragon and saving Princess Fiona.
It’s been a few years, with the kids in tow, since I last enjoyed its live adaptation, but when I heard everyone’s favourite ogre was arriving at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, five years after its last tour, I didn’t let the fact my kids are now young men, stop me from joining in the fun!
But Shrek The Musical is an extravaganza for big kids and little kids alike and, if last night was anything to go by, an opening night audience comprising all ages, gave the show a very enthusiastic welcome.
At the age of seven, Shrek is sent away from home to fend for himself in a swamp where he is perfectly content. Now some years later, his home is disturbed by a hoard of fairytale creatures who arrive on his swamp having been displaced by the evil Lord Farquaad. Determined to send them on their way, Shrek sets off to take on Farquaad. Accompanied by the loveable (but extremely annoying) Donkey, they both arrive in Duloc where to get his swamp back Shrek must rescue Princess Fiona from a prison tower so she can marry Lord Farquaad.
Featuring all the classic characters from the Oscar®-winning DreamWorks film and the iconic songs and story from David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori’s original musical, the production features fabulous toe-tapping tunes including ‘I’m A Believer’, ‘Big Bright Beautiful World’ and ’I Know It’s Today.’ There’s even a rousing sing-a-long finale to join in with.
A Shrek-tacular principal cast line-up includes Antony Lawrence (The Lion King, International Tour, Mary Poppins, UK Tour and Matilda the Musical, Cambridge Theatre/RSC) as Shrek, Joanne Clifton (Strictly Come Dancing, ITV) as Princess Fiona, James Gillan (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Apollo Theatre) as Lord Farquaad, Brandon Lee Sears (Dreamgirls, UK Tour, Be More Chill, Shaftesbury Theatre and Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre) as Donkey, and rising star Cherece Richards (Once on This Island, Regent’s Park Theatre) who is making her debut in a principal role as the Dragon.
With Shrek, the Belgrade have bagged a show with West End qualities, in no small part due to a sterling lead trio of Lawrence, Clifton and, my personal favourite, Brandon Lee Sears, as Donkey. Hilarious, sassy and unapologetically over the top. And who knew professional dancer Joanne Clifton could also hold a note? A real triple threat in her role of Fiona, to which she given her own twist.
Special mention too to James Gillan’s portrayal of the deliciously camp and vain Lord Farquaad. He brought many of the laughs on the night.
Shrek The Musical plays at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre as part of its UK tour until Sunday so don your best green outfit and leave your troubles Far Far Away for an adventure like no other.