Shrek The Musical – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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Shrek The Musical – Review

Bradford Alhambra, September 2015

by Sandra Callard

Shrek the Musical, a modern fairy tale that has scaled the heights of success both on film and stage, embarked on a new touring production last year. It has now arrived at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford.

Shrek the MusicalShrek himself was created from the mind of American cartoonist and author, William Steig. He published the story in 1990, and Shrek immediately ensconced himself in the hearts of children and adults alike. Based on the Oscar-winning 2001 animated film, Shrek, it is the heart-warming story of a great green ogre who falls in love with a princess. It has been enchanting audiences ever since.

The production hits you in the face from the word go. Everything about it is larger than life including the eponymous hero, played engagingly by Dean Chisnall. They are all here, the characters from childhood, Red Riding Hood, the Gingerbread Man, the Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf, too many to name but all alive in the hearts of children, endlessly parading the stage in glorious, colourful life. Shrek the Musical is a delightful combination of light-hearted comedy and satire, but it also includes a good chunk of juvenile rudeness which surprises and delights the children as they see behaviour which would elicit censure at home.


Shrek the MusicalShrek himself is a lonely ogre living in a swamp, which is taken over by story book characters who have been evicted from the kingdom of Duloc by wicked baron Lord Farquaad, a diminutive tyrant who needs to marry a princess to become king. Farquaad is brilliantly played by Gerard Carey, who spends the whole time on his knees manipulating Farquaad’s tiny yellow-stockinged legs. His leering, arrogant boastfulness is hilarious as he attempts to strut the stage to impress onlookers, and still makes you laugh when you’ve left the theatre.

Shrek sets off to confront Lord Farquaand to try and regain his swamp, and rescues Donkey from Farquaand’s henchmen. The grateful Donkey, played in a fantastic costume by Idriss Kargbo, swears friendship and help to Shrek. This takes the form of constant hectoring and lecturing. Indeed, to such an extent that I lost his words along the way.

Farquaad agrees to give Shrek his swamp back if he rescues the Princess Fiona from a tower so he can marry her, so Shrek sets out to do this with the dubious help of Donkey. Princess Fiona is a feisty handful and is cleverly played with wit and humour by Bronte Barbe. Possessor of a beautiful and searching voice, her songs are some of the better presented in an unfortunately dull score which is somewhat lengthy and repetitive. One exception is the Shrek/Fiona duet ‘I Think I Got You Beat’, which they perform to perfect comedy timing. I nevertheless found myself longing for the one song we all know is coming, the anthem ‘I’m a Believer’. It does not disappoint when it eventually bursts on the stage.


Shrek the MusicalShrek is undoubtedly a spectacle. Costume and set designer Tim Hatley and make up designer Naomi Donne deserve great praise for their breathtaking sets and costumes that bring fairy tales characters to life. The colours are intense to the point of luminosity. You could almost lose the story in attempts to take in everything on stage.

One last bouquet must go to the wonderful, gigantic and colourful moving dragon. Visible operators from beneath work the dragon in a War Horse kind of way. They bring it to life, not only with movement, but incredibly with facial expressions and emotions. A great family show that children will adore and where adults will relive their childhood.

images Helen Maybanks

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