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Theatre Review: Shrek The Musical @ Birmingham Hippodrome


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If you were to spend two and a half hours watching tap dancing mice, exploding birds and a singing ogre, you would, of course, be witnessing the masterpiece that is Shrek The Musical. Fresh from London, 2015 sees the show tour the UK with a cast almost so perfect, it was like watching the film itself.

Now, how do you write a review when a show is so good that it leaves you with no words? It’s a disturbing thought thinking that the Dreamworks movie the play originated from is over ten years old now. Watching the musical come to life on stage caused currents of relived childhoods, and, for the children in the audience, a childhood worthwhile.

The show tells the story of Shrek, an ogre (Dean Chisnall), budding along with a talking donkey (Idriss Kargbo) to rescue Princess Fiona (Faye Brookes)  from a dragon guarded tower, to wed the vertically challenged, narcissistic Lord Farquaad (Gerard Carey). It’s a story known and loved by millions that rewrites what’s accepted within a fairy tale. Musical numbers where the lyrics consisted of toilette humour, saturated in belches and burps, kept kids entertained, while the most risqué humour indefinitely kept the budding parents on their toes. It was hard to tell what age bracket enjoyed the show more.

It was a perfect balance of comedy (and there was hell of a lot of it) and a developed storyline. The show differs from the film, in which we learn the honest and not so honest beginnings of Shrek, Fiona and Lord Farquaad. Not only were the individual actors and their voices impressive, but how they bounced off each other really made the show worthy of its West End presence. Brookes’ number of “I Know It’s Today”, joined by a baby and teenage Fiona, truly tested the limits of the human voice.

Not only the principles, but amongst the ensemble/fairy tale creatures. Each role was imperative to the show. Each costume was just as intricate as the next. Each number possessed harmonies that could cut to the bone. Each gag had the sold out audience erupting in a tempestuous storm of giggles.

It was obvious that the set changes were going to be impressive, but nothing could amount to the thirty foot dragon that graced the stage before singing a seductive and jazzy number. It was Christina Aguilera with scales and wings. The puppeteers who manned the beast created the illusion of flight to the point that you’re pretty convince that, yes, there is a dragon trying to kill an ogre and donkey right before your eyes.

Much similar to the film, the musical gently mocked fairy tales and traditional childhood story, with a pied piper tap and jazz number, a cow literally jumping over the moon, a puss in boots cameo and a Pinocchio that’s nose really did extend. However, mocking reached climax with references to The Lion King and Wicked, in which the audience received perfectly.

Farquaad’s character brought the roof down, with the role played on Carey’s knees with false legs created the illusion of being short. It worked better than anything I have ever seen in theatre. Everything seemed peculiarly magical, with Brookes’ transforming into an ogre faster than the race to the bar during the interval.

Five Stars cannot do this show justice. Just imagine a constellation instead.

Shrek The Musical continues at the Birmingham Hippodrome until April 26th.

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