You know those feel-good shows that leave you humming as you drive home? That you think about while putting your little ones to bed? That you’re chatting about over dinner, and remembering in the morning? Shrek The Musical is one of those.
The back story
Shrek The Musical is the stage version of the modern fairytale made famous by Dreamworks’ 2001 film and the vocal talents of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow.
If you never watched it, Shrek (both musical and film) tells the story of a swamp-dwelling ogre who undertakes an adventure in order to reclaim the deed to his land – and evict a host of fairytale squatters.
Joined by a cheeky donkey, he evades a fire-breathing dragon, rescues a princess from a tower, falls in love, and teaches the audience that it’s better to be a beautiful person than a pretty one.
The show itself
The book by David Lindsay-Abaire, and its stage show, are different enough to the film to be intriguing, but similar enough to engage littler fans. (We learn more, for instance, about the lonely childhoods of the grumpy green ogre and Princess Fiona.)
What’s unique to the musical, however, are the lavish costumes and cleverly detailed sets – combined with impressive pieces of puppetry (via the Gingerbread Man and a larger-than-life, bright pink, heavily lipsticked singing Dragon) and stage magic (look out for a team of top-hatted rats wearing tap-dancing slippers).
Then there are the performances. Unusually (at least in my experience of South African musical theatre), everyone in Shrek does everything: the singers dance, the dancers sing, and almost every performer can act. Not hamming: actual acting.
Donkey (Rory Booth) and Lord Farqaad (Jacobus van Heerden) are highlights. Booth has all the neurosis, wit and sparkle of the fast-talking Eddie Murphy, while van Heerden brings a divine campness to the diminutive ruler of Duloc.
Jessica Sole is an absolutely wonderful Princess Fiona: spirited, fun, funny, self-deprecating, and a helluva singer. No wonder Shrek falls in love with her. Look out, also, for gorgeous performances by young and teenage Princess Fionas.
From the ensemble I was particularly impressed by the talents of Graeme Wicks as the shrill Pinocchio; the magnificent Ashleigh Harvey as the Wicked Witch; the expressive Devon Flemmer as a guard, a knight and one of Three Little Pigs; and the adorably pink-cheeked Kyra Green as the Shoemaker’s Elf.
Shrek The Musical isn’t The Lion King, but there is a huge amount to recommend here. Standout songs include “Big Bright Beautiful World”, “I Know It’s Today”, “I Think I Got You Beat”, and “Freak Flag” – all of which are cleverly written, seamlessly performed, toe-tappingly catchy, and highly suitable for the show.
Shrek The Musical is wonderful. Big, bold, and fun for the whole family.
The show runs at Gold Reef City’s Lyric Theatre (in the Casino complex) until 17 July with performances at 2.30pm Wednesdays to Sundays and 7.30pm Fridays and Saturdays. No kids under 4 (with good reason, as it’s more than two hours long).
*This post originally appeared on jozikids.co.za.