Shrek The Musical – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre.
By @Steve Crabtree, December 2018
Swamping the outside of the Leeds Grand Theatre was a huge green carpet; giving a sure-fire sign that a big, smelly ogre was in town.
Shrek, the animated film that’s now 17 (yes… seventeen) years old has been adapted in to a musical. And over the Christmas period, Leeds is the lucky city to host its UK tour for a couple of weeks.
And after taking our seats in the stalls, the lights went down and the Shrek storybook opened. It cleverly began to tell us the tale and set the scene to the Shrek story. A story that unfolds and mirrors the animated film where nobody likes an ogre, and Shrek isn’t really that sociable.
But when an ogre roars at, and breaks wind at anyone who crosses his path, why would he have friends? (Yep, all that wind-breaking is in there!)
“Hilarious and spectacular”
The lead is played by Steffan Harri, and he carries the persona of Shrek off really well. And although it took me a bit of time to get used to the character not being an animation, he certainly had the voice and body language of the ‘real’ Shrek down to a tee.
The show is advertised as a “hilarious and spectacular production”, and how true that was. Some of the scenery and the effects were incredible, and there are laughs right from the start of the show.
Marcus Ayton somehow replicated the ‘Donkey’ character on stage perfectly. The big comedy smile, the incredibly camp posture and the mannerisms had people laughing at his every move. And just when you thought Donkey would be the centre-point of the funny; enter Lord Farquaad. His presence (or lack of) took the comedy factor of Shrek The Musical up a notch. Visual humour was taken to another level (ironic, given his ‘size’), and there was no shortfall in Samuel Holmes portrayal of the wannabe King.
As the tale continues, and he gains a best friend in Donkey, Shrek also falls in love. Laura Main is great in the role of the ditzy Princess Fiona, and it’s worth noting she can dance a bit too. For me they give us a perfect on-stage pairing for the two main characters.
When it comes to highlights though, I thought the hottest star of the show was the Dragon. Its entrance drew gasps from the audience, and the way the huge creature flew round the stage had everybody captivated. It added more wow-factor to an already impressive array of effects.
There was one thing that didn’t connect with me in Shrek The Musical though, and that was the songs. It felt like the musical numbers, as nice as they were, sometimes slowed the show down. They didn’t bring any gumption or atmosphere with them. When I look back now, I don’t think the production actually needed the songs. I’m pretty sure most will agree that this is one musical where the music isn’t a memorable part of the show.
But for me that didn’t matter, because the rest of the show was entertaining. It was so good. I could even stretch to say that I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed the film. I thought that it was perfect for this time of year leading up to Christmas. And although I can’t put Shrek the Musical into the same bracket as pantomime, it’s a fantastic show for the family, for the adults, and for kids.
“A life-changing moment”
If you haven’t seen Shrek the film, try and watch it a few days before you see Shrek The Musical. Because although the musical covers the story well, you may need to know the film to understand the stage version better and fully appreciate it.
Shrek the Musical definitely gets a thumbs up from me. My friend and I were in hysterics throughout, as were the majority of the audience.
If you decide to go – and you should do – look out for the dancing shoe rats. It’s a life-changing moment!