Review: SHREK: THE MUSICAL, New Wimbledon Theatre

Join everyone's favourite Ogre for a night of laughs, high kicks, and high notes!

By: Sep. 27, 2023
Review: SHREK: THE MUSICAL, New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: SHREK: THE MUSICAL, New Wimbledon Theatre Shrek became an instant classic upon its cinematic release in 2001, finding the perfect balance between kid (and dad) approved fart jokes, emotional nuance, and adult humour. As a result, it's no surprise that Shrek The Musical has endured similar success, with both a Broadway and West-End run and several tours under its belt. 

Last evening, everyone’s favourite Ogre and his noble steed arrived in Wimbledon for a night of laughs, high kicks, and high notes! 

The popularity of its source material means you’re likely already aware of how the storybook tale unfolds. Shrek (Anthony Lawrence), desperate to rid his beloved swarm of fairytale creatures, agrees to rescue Princess Fiona (Joanne Clifton) from a dragon-guarded tower on behalf of Lord Farquad (James Gillan). Accompanied by his unlikely friend, Donkey (Brandon Lee Sears), they set out on an unforgettable adventure with a fairy-tale ending.

The score, with music from Jeanine Tesorie and lyrics from David Lindsay-Abaire, lands in a sweet spot between fairytale-esque and pop/rock, which feels like a suitable homage to the film’s soundtrack. Standouts include “I Know It's Today,'' "Who I’d Be" and “Freak Flag,'; all of which tend to stick in your head long after the performance has ended. The set design from Philip Witcomb is another clear homage to the film, which, aided by the use of clever projections, helps to bring the fairy tale world to life. 

While touching upon many of the same notes as the film, the book does seem to lack some of the characterisation that made the movie great. Character drives and motivations are simply not as clear, which can make the narrative appear clunky and disjointed. Despite this, our pre-existing familiarity with the tale and strong ensemble performances serves to fill in these gaps. 

There’s always a challenge in bringing iconic characters to life; that can sometimes lend to performances that honour the original performer, as opposed to the character. This is absolutely not the case here, with every performer giving their own spin on the leading trio. 

Anthony Lawrence brings Shrek to life with a consistently comedic performance packed with an undercurrent of vulnerability that allows him to peel away at the “layers” of Shrek’s persona. He’s paid wonderfully with Joanne Clifton, who, between powerhouse vocals, really hones in on Fiona’s more playful or erratic traits. Brandon Lee Sears is both charismatic and chaotic in his portrayal of Donkey, making him a clear audience favourite. James Gillan’s Lord Farquaad is delightfully eccentric and camp, often earning some of the biggest laughs of the night.

While the entire ensemble works their magic when transporting audiences into the storybook world of Duloc, especially given that each plays a handful of characters, stand-outs include Georgie Buckland as Gingey, Jonathan David Dudley as Captain of the Guard/Pied Piper, and Mark D’Arcy as Pinocchio. D’Arcy, in particular, has the kind of stage presence you cannot help but be drawn towards, especially during the number “Story of My Life.” 

However, perhaps the most impressive element of the show is the choreography from director Nick Winston, predominantly during the tap numbers.

As such, while the book does seem to miss out on some much-needed characterisation, strong performances (and dance numbers) ensure that a night at Shrek The Musical is fun for the entire family. 

Shrek The Musical is at New Wimbledon Theatre until 30 September, before continuing with it's UK tour. 

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner


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