Shrek (5 Stars) – review by Suzanne Tate
Her Majesty’s Theatre and Melbourne theatregoers turned green on Wednesday night for the opening night of Shrek the Musical, but not with envy. There was no need for envy when the audience were treated to such an excellent night of musical theatre for the whole family.
Personally, I wasn’t quite sure how well the animated comedy would translate to the stage, but I should not have doubted. Ben Mingay, in the title role, was the living embodiment of the beloved animated character, in all his grumpy glory. Mingay nailed the Scottish accent, the personality and the musical numbers, demonstrating his significant vocal talent.
Lucy Durack brought a feisty attitude (and an amazing vocal performance) to the role of Princess Fiona, making it her own. Much to my surprise, one of my favourite characters was Lord Farquaad. We might have hated the cartoon despot in the movie, but Todd McKenney made the character almost lovable. The role was played with great physical comedy, excellent comedic timing, and outstanding vocals. I was quite disconcerted by how much I enjoyed the live stage version of the character of Lord Farquaad.
My biggest disappointment was my response to my favourite character, Donkey, played by Nat Jobe. Jobe’s Donkey was full of energy, humour, compassion and zest for life, but through no fault of Jobe’s, I found the character hard to warm to. I think a live, human portrayal just couldn’t capture the cuteness of the adorable cartoon character. I also found Donkey’s accent harsh and artificial, despite it closely matching the portrayal from the movie.
Overall the entire cast was excellent. Each minor role delivered an outstanding vocal performances, and Denise Devlin, as the understudy for The Dragon, was no exception. The physical manifestation of The Dragon was also impressive. A large scale puppet, brought to life by four members of the cast. The cast members fulfilling the minor roles had to be extremely versatile. Not only did several take on puppeteering skills, but almost all of them played multiple roles. They must have been extremely busy backstage with the frequent elaborate costume changes!
The costumes were highly effective, bringing the animated work to life on stage. The only costume issue appeared during Fiona’s final transformation, when the green chest piece under the wedding gown was clearly visible at the neckline. No doubt this was due to the nature of the extremely fast costume change, as her face makeup also appeared rushed and incomplete. The only other technical glitch of any kind was the projected text in the opening scene being out of focus. The sets were also highly effective. There a range of backdrops that created major venues such as the Dragons Keep and Lord Farquaad’s castle, and they created a beautiful illusion, filled with detail and rich colour. The stained glass window lit by the setting sun was especially attractive, and a perfect setting for the dramatic final scene.
The orchestra gave an excellent performance and was perfectly balanced with the vocals. Overall, the sound quality was spot on. The lighting was also very effective. Fiona’s transformation lighting effects were very well done – not only the magical effect, but it appeared lighting was used to create the green skin tone until the final wedding scene.
While this isn’t a musical filled with a lot of choreography, what there is was very effective. ‘Welcome to Duloc’ captured the effect of clockwork figures, and it was interesting to see how tiny details could be used to great effect, such as the glitter bedecked palms of the knights in the stocks during ‘Forever’.
Shrek The Musical was a wonderful evening’s entertainment which left the audience on a high and wishing for more. It’s definitely a show for the whole family – the audience was filled with far more children than the usual opening night, and I’m sure they all had a ball (and went home to terrorise their family with their very own Shrek Whoopie cushion from the merchandise kiosk!).
Overall – 5 stars
Performance – 5
Costumes – 4.5
Sets – 5
Sound – 5
Direction – 5
Musical Direction – 5
Choreography – 5
Shrek The Musical is now playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District.
For more details: https://shrekthemusical.com.au/
Photo credit: Brian Geach