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Review: Shrek, Theatre Royal, Norwich

PUBLISHED: 10:11 28 June 2018

Shrek The Musical
Photo: ©Tristram Kenton

Shrek The Musical Photo: ©Tristram Kenton

©Tristram Kenton

Eve Stebbing joins a sell-out Theatre Royal crowd to welcome back Shrek.

Shrek

Theatre Royal

Norwich

The good-hearted ogre may be best known as the hero of his own DreamWorks films, but he has been touring the world since 2008 in a musical, too. It’s good to see that he has landed once again at the Theatre Royal, where the show was greeted by a full house of enthusiastic fans.

The original film won an Academy Award as best animated feature, so it is perhaps no surprise that the stage version is distinguished by its wonderful visual gags and puppetry. Directors Jason Moore and Rob Ashford bring us such delights as a talking gingerbread man on a plate and a giant fire breathing dragon. Sets by Tim Hatley are like the turning pages of a children’s book.

As is conventional in a musical, the story doesn’t get much in the way of development. Shrek rescues the princess from the dragon guarded tower without pausing much to consider the psychological implications of his gesture. David Lindsay-Abaire’s book is as funny as the films, however, and laughs abound as the evening progresses.

I was less convinced by the songs. Jeanine Tesori delivers a score that moves the action along in a speedy and business-like manner, but it does not have the charm the ogre needs to make his story emotionally persuasive.

Fortunately, Steffan Harri in the green-eared central role more than makes up for any lack in the music. His charisma carries us right to the heart of the piece. We are rooting for him from the start, and when he meets the princess, it’s clear that he’s the one to win her.

Marcus Ayton as his devoted donkey provides the perfect side-kick. His funny and physical interpretation is a master class in character acting.

The chief villain, Lord Farquaad, is none too shabby either. Samuel Holmes as this half-pint baddy struts and frets the stage on his knees. Half man, half puppet, he has us all in stitches.

An upbeat night of fairy-tale japes that tickles the audience a treat

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