Review: Shrek the Musical @ Palace Theatre, Manchester

Shrek the Musical is back in Manchester for two weeks and it is the feel-good lift needed by anyone who returned to work and school after Christmas.

The Broadway and West-End hit has all the laughs and enchantment of the film but adds more substance to the main characters, making them even more lovable in this showing at the Palace Theatre.

We learn why Shrek came to live alone in the opening scene, with the seven-year-old ogre and his parents poking their heads through the fairytale book so often seen in the movies.

This extension of the storyline deepens the audience’s relationship with everyone’s favourite green character before the farts and giggles bring the energy up.

Shrek’s costume, complete with tartan tights, was as realistic as you can get. Although Steffan Harri’s accent was not quite as similar to the film as one might expect, his vocals were excellent.

HIGH ENERGY: There’s plenty of action to sink your teeth into

The play included appearances from the three blind mice, Pinocchio and other fairytale characters whose sheer presence and one-liners had the audience giggling.

Lord Farquaad was played by a kneeling Samuel Holmes, who used puppet-esque legs that were swung around and – rather cleverly – not taken too seriously, earning roars of laughter.

A simple proposal rather than the film’s all-action lead-up to Shrek’s quest did mean Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation was missed, and so too was All Star – a major disappointment for some in attendance.

Instead, Big Bright Beautiful World was the musical’s stand-out number and was repeated throughout to chart Shrek and Fiona’s realisation of true happiness.  

AMUSING: The giggles are fast and furious

Marcus Ayton had Eddie Murphy’s Donkey down to a tee, and his soulful voice was much better than the character’s hilarious attempts in the movie.

Fiona’s obsession with being rescued was emphasised better too, even with the use of cabbage-patch-doll-looking puppets that appeared for her introductory number I Know It’s Today.

Dragon, played by Lucinda Shaw, sounded as sassy as you would imagine her to, complete with a diva-ish Mariah Carey-style voice.

Her impressive structure was operated seamlessly by four people controlling different elements of her body – she could even tap her tail to the beat!

The first act ended with the touching Who I’d Be, which explores Shrek’s dissatisfaction at being an ogre, providing even more emotional depth to his character.

Memorable lines from the film, such as ‘that’ll do Donkey, that’ll do’ were kept and delivered well.

On the way to meet Farquaad, I Think I Got You Beat goes further than the film to explore Shrek and Fiona’s wasted childhoods that strengthens their relationship. This was a real plus.

A projector was used to create moving backdrops and aid the aesthetics of Fiona’s transformation and it recreated the well-known fairytale land successfully.

The Ballad of Farquaad’s cleverly-rhymed lyrics, including the revelation that he is actually the child of Snow White and Grumpy, had the audience in stitches throughout.

His horse named Brexit, fitted with the hilariously-unexpected reversing truck sound effect, carried Farquaad to meet the Princess and begin the marriage proceedings.

Fiona’s realisation of her ‘beautiful world’, with yet another well-directed transformation at the altar, pulled the story to a heart-warming close.

A rousing rendition of I’m A Believer was left until after the bows to send the audience away grinning at what really is a must-see for anyone who adores the films.

*Shrek the Musical is playing at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Sunday 28 January. You can buy tickets HERE.

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