The history of movie-to-stage adaptations is patchy.
There are obvious, immediate success stories like Billy Elliott and The Lion King; things that shouldn’t work but do, like Ghost; and flat-out garbage, like Legally Blonde.
Shrek the Musical falls into the middle bracket.
Turning a not-as-good-as-you-remember animated film from 2001 into a live-action stage musical sounds like a recipe for disaster but… it’s not.
In fact, Shrek the Musical is very, very, very good.
You know the story. Grumpy ogre Shrek’s swamp is taken over by fairytale squatters, so to get it back he is tasked with saving a princess in a tower, guarded by a dragon. He’s joined by a fast-talking donkey and they set about rescuing the maiden who may not be all she seems.
The incredible costumes, brilliant make-up, stunning sets and slick production give the show the feel of a mega-budget Hollywood movie.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of all is an enormous dragon puppet, which not only dominates the entire stage, but looks identical to the film character.
And though we’re all familiar with it from posters and TV appearances, it’d be unfair not to comment on Shrek’s make-up job. Dean Chisnall, playing the ogre, does a grand job of emoting under a ton of make-up and rubber.
The show is directed by Nigel Harman, who won an Olivier-award for his performance of Lord Farquaad in the West End production, and it’s little surprise here that Lord Farquaad is again the show stealer. Played by Steffan Harri (on his knees the whole time), the diminutive dictator gets the best lines and is a joy to watch.
For a musical, it’s a shame that Shrek’s biggest downfall is the lack of good, original songs. They’re not bad, just a bit… bland, and apart from I Think I Got You Beat with its burping and farting that delighted the kids in the audience, you’d be hard pressed to recall any of the songs from this show.
Actually, that’s not true, an encore of The Monkees’ I’m A Believer; something lifted from the movie is pretty memorable.
In fact, quite a few scenes are lifted wholesale from the film, and not only are they replicated with surprising accuracy, but they are arguably better. The famous Muffin Man scene is recreated with the help of a brilliant gingerbread man puppet while the bit where Princess Fiona bursts a bluebird by having a sing-off with it is brilliant replicated too.
It’s not the most sophisticated of shows, but for sheer exuberance and family-friendliness, Shrek The Musical is an absolute must-see.