BWW Review: SHREK THE MUSICAL, Edinburgh Playhouse
There is a prince, a princess and a quest for happy ever after.
You may think you have heard it all before, but add a big green ogre, a talking donkey and a dragon that can sing and you'll quickly learn this is no typical fairy tale.
This panto season, Edinburgh is turning the traditional fairy story on its head with Shrek the Musical, based on the 2001 Oscar-winning Dreamworks film.
After the magical creature-hating Lord Farquaad banishes all fairy tale characters to a local swamp, the green-skinned, Scottish-voiced swamp resident Shrek sets off to Duloc to reclaim his ground. In order to get his quiet life back, he agrees to save Princess Fiona from her tower prison. This dangerous journey leads Shrek to question if the grouchy solo life of an ogre is truly what his heart desires.
Many will be familiar with the film inside and out after its huge box office success and many sequels; it is rarely off TV. Following Disney's highly successful spree of film-to-stage musicals, Dreamworks' first attempt adds so many layers, like an onion, to this well-known, much-loved adventure.
A finest selection of lines from the film are there for fans of a 'quote-along', yet playwright David Lindsay-Abaire shines spotlights on the characters' personalities, emotions and backstories.
In true Broadway fashion, not only does it poke fun at classic fairy tales, but there is also a sprinkling of musical theatre parodies for lovers of all things theatrical.
The show could easily stand alone without the film. Jeanine Tesori's original score is heartfelt and humorous, and virtually free of filler tracks. "I Think I Got You Beat" has the audience in stitches. And "Freak Flag" is an anthem for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.
This musical is so green, you wouldn't be surprised if the stage and lighting were powered by the high-octane cast alone. The high calibre of talent on show is led by Steffan Harri, who is a West End standard, as the odorous ogre Shrek. And Marcus Hayton brings his partner-in-crime Donkey to life with great humour and enthusiasm.
Laura Main, of Call the Midwife fame, ticks all the talent boxes as Princess Fiona, but something is missing. For such a comedy-driven role, it never feels like she fully lets herself go, sticking strictly to the script over spontaneity. Unfortunately, one of her biggest numbers and best of the show, "I Know It's Today", has been turned into a for-laughs puppet number - stripping the heart from what is typically a deeply moving performance.
However, many of the biggest laughs come from Samuel Homes, who captures the character of Lord Farquaad perfectly.
Everything about this production feels big budget and fresh. Tim Hatley's costumes dazzle in his flashy set, boasted by an increase in technology use thanks to Duncan McLean's projections. And Josh Prince's choreography is spot on, especially during the hilarious tap-dancing rat sequence.
With belly laughs big enough for an ogre, its unashamed naughty humour casts a magic spell on all ages. If Broadway did pantomime, this would be it. A fabulous way to introduce those new to musical theatre, while still providing a modern gem for lifelong fans.
It's bold, it's green, it has to be seen!
Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks