Shrek is a story that we all know well, and if you don’t then it’s safe to say I probably don’t trust you. The Dreamworks adaption of William Steig’s classic 1990 fairytale picture book is a movie that played a major part in so many people’s childhood. With each film in the franchise being a commercial success and adding a different layer to the storytelling, Shrek has always been considered a top-tier family film.
Already making it’s way from book, to screen, Shrek has now jumped onto the live-stage with a musical adaptation that further explores the complexities and emotions of the story. Opening in Brisbane at the QPAC during it’s national Australian run of dates, this musical brings a whole lot of warmth and heart, along with it’s classic jokes and hilariously colourful moments.
Following Shrek on his journey to get his swamp back after Lord Farquaad banishes all of the fairytale creatures there, he agrees to help rescue Princess Fiona from the abandoned tower in exchange for the deed to the swamp. Along the way he finds a friend in the hilarious and clingy Donkey, and builds a strong connection with Fiona. But the most important message he discovers is “beauty isn’t always pretty”, and that we need to love ourselves and be proud of who we are.
The musical adaption sticks very close to the original film with the same jokes and dialogue intertwined which provides that warm familiarity and nostalgia. In bringing this movie to life on the theatre stage they were in a strange predicament because if they strayed too far away from the story and well known moments then people would complain, but in staying true to the story they also slightly become predictable. Luckily the all original songs bring a fresh perspective to the story, and creates some of their own new special moments including the three generations of Fiona’s singing ‘I Know It’s Today’, the quirky Shrek and Fiona moment ‘I Think I Got You Beat’, and the ensemble anthem ‘Freak Flag’. And as the encore they delivered a nostalgic filled performance of ‘I’m A Believer’ which they encouraged the crowd to singalong ecstatically to as it was the only song from the original film soundtrack to make an appearance.
The majority of the cast were very strong in bringing these iconic characters to life. Ben Mingay captured the polarising warmth of Shrek perfectly, Nat Jobe delivered Donkey’s quick wit, and Marcia Hines made a stunning impact as The Dragon even though her stage time was quite minor. The ensemble were also colourful in capturing the fairytale creatures, except for the characterisation of The Gingerbread Man which was a bit all over the place. And that’s where Lucy Durack’s representation of Princess Fiona also fell a little flat. As the audience you were meant to fall in love with Princess Fiona while Shrek did, and feel for her as she addressed her curse, but the emotional layering and characterisation just wasn’t there. It honestly just felt like she was trying to play Glinda from Wicked again through the body of Fiona.
However the true star of the show came from Todd Mckenny’s portrayal of Lord Farquaad. He was brilliant from the moment he rushed onto the stage, and every gag he delivered landed perfectly. Impressively doing the whole show and strenuous choreography on his knees to represent the characters small stature (which is also explained in a Snow White and Princess And The Pea crossover plot twist), he may have had one of the most gruelling roles out of the whole cast. Every time he took to the stage I found myself smiling from ear-to-ear which in-turn made him into one of the most likeable villains.
With a lot of famous imagery associated with the movies, the production impressively brought a lot of these well known scenes to life with huge props and quirky scenes. From the opening book reading of the story, to the instant growing of Pinocchio’s nose when he told a lie, to the flight of the huge dragon puppet, they really gave some strong visual moments. The only thing missing from the show was the magic mirror which seemed like a huge missed opportunity especially when it was apart of the original broadway show.
Shrek The Musical brought a lot of laughs, smiles, and fart jokes to the QPAC, and successfully captured a lot of the original magic from the film which is hard to do.
Shrek The Musical is playing until February 7. For all ticketing details click HERE