Hats off to every single performer in Shrek The Musical – they work their socks off and give 110%.
Most theatergoers planning to see Shrek will be familiar with the sweet movie. It’s the tale of a supposedly ugly giant ogre who shuns company and in order to retain his solo swamp paradise, agrees to rescue Princess Fiona from her tower (think Rapunzel!). The smarmy evil Lord Farquaad wants to marry Fiona and he insists that is the only way Shrek will clear his swamp of unwanted fairytale-land guests.
So Shrek sets out on his quest and soon becomes befriended (whether he wants it or not) by a talking donkey, and eventually they rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona.
Ben Mingay as Shrek is a total delight, with a wonderful stage presence and a very pleasant singing voice that I would love to hear more of. Nat Jobe as Donkey is an excellent comic sidekick, with verve and spot-on timing. Whenever he appears, Todd McKenney steals the show as the pint-sized posh Lord Farquaad, with an interesting stage gag to create the character. McKenney is surely one of this country’s national theatrical treasures and he never disappoints. Lucy Durack as Fiona gives an assured performance, mixing comedy with charm, as Fiona and Shrek gradually discover they have a lot in common.
Thankfully, Shrek has an attractive Scottish accent and Farquaad has an appropriate upper class British one, but the remainder of the characters have strong American twangs, which can grate. For my ear, too much of the music is largely belt style, again with that hard American twang, except for Mingay and McKenney, who use their mellow and resonant singing voices.
For me, the music (by Jeanine Tesori) isn’t memorable, and the book (by David Lindsay-Abaire) could be a lot stronger – a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts.
However, the message the show gives, of diversity winning out, is a heartwarming one, and there were many children there with parents or grandparents, and they came out of the theater with their eyes shining. While the show didn’t do that for me, I came out marveling at the incredible music theatre talent we are lucky to have in this country. People’s opinions of Shrek will differ, so if you decide to go and make up your own mind, you won’t be disappointed in the performances of the cast.
Photo: Shrek – Ben Mingay, Donkey – Nat Jobe, Princess Fiona – Lucy Durack. Photo credit Brian Geach.
Julie Houghton reviewed the opening night performance of “Shrek The Musical” at Her Majesty’s Theatre on February 19, 2020.