Shrek The Musical is the highlight of the summer for Milton Keynes Theatre and with good reason. They’ve waited months for the tour to arrive in Bucks.
So was it worth the wait? Absolutely. Cancel your holidays and book tickets for the whole family to see this fabulous five-star fairytale feast.
You expect a lot of hype with this sort of show – it was a monster success in the West End and has played to sell-out audiences on its national tour – but it’s entirely justified. Everything about Shrek is spectacular.
There is a whiff of a summer pantomime to the musical but that’s no bad thing. I’m confident families would rather see this than the tired old stories churned out every Xmas.
It’s based on the original 2001 Dreamworks film about a big fat smelly ogre who, shunned by his parents and society, lives in a swamp until, one day, his personal space is invaded by a group of homeless fairytale characters.
The only way that he can get his privacy back is to rescue a princess for the evil Lord Farquaad.
At its heart is a story about love and beauty being more than skin deep but it’s wrapped in a lively comedy that will appeal to all ages.
You want to root for the unloved and lonely Shrek, his wise-cracking sidekick, Donkey, and the rather feisty Princess Fiona (Bronté Barbé) but it’s made impossible by the scene-stealing Gerard Carey as the diminutive Farquaad.
It’s a gem of a role made hilariously funny by one gag – his lack of height and how the part is performed.
Carey works hard in a physically demanding role that combines put-downs and insults with singing and dancing.
Dean Chisnall is the giant green ogre with a deep Scots accent and a mighty halitosis-fuelled roar. Also in his arsenal is belching and farting (you can’t have a successful family show without a good comedy fart these days).
But the make-up doesn’t hide a first rate, multi-layered performance (a bit like his onion analogy) that swings from unintentional joviality to poignancy.
It’s beautifully done. He gives us an ogre that is, perhaps, more sunny than Mike Myers’ film version, but he’s full of heart and with an impressive singing voice.
His double act with Ryan Reid’s Donkey is a real treat with the chalk and cheese pair providing lots of laughs.
The production values on the show are impossibly high. Every member of the company gives star quality turns, even if they’re only in the odd scene.
James Lacey’s magical Pinocchio is a particular delight (and yes, kids, his nose really does grow!) as is Nikki Bentley’s handling of Gingy (the gingerbread man).
The sets and technicolour costumes all shriek of quality and it’s so welcoming to hear a live orchestra (under the direction of David Rose).
There’s even time out for a lavish tap dance routine (Morning Person) from Princess Fiona and her rat pack that smacks of a Busby Berkeley dance number.
A giant of a cameo is performed by a dragon that younger audience members will love. She’s a bit of a disco diva but succeeds in making a memorable entrance.
The 18 musical numbers (book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, music by Jeanine Tesori) are plenteous, upbeat and joyful though not so memorable that you’ll be humming them on the way home.
Shrek The Musical plays at Milton Keynes Theatre until September 6. Not to be missed.
Shrek is a magical monster of a musical that will delight audiences of all ages (hell, there’s even a farting contest). Cancel your summer holidays and book seats now.