Shrek The Musical – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Christine Goode, October 2023
Once upon a time, in a county far, far away (called Yorkshire), an ogre came to visit…
Leaving his swamp and bringing his adventures to Bradford is the long awaited and beloved Shrek. Kicking off half term with a bang, hordes of families with young children are all milling around the Alhambra Theatre. Some die-hard fans adorned with Shrek ears, t-shirts and ‘Gingy’ hand puppets, eagerly waiting to take their seats and chatting excitedly.
As the lights go down, an excited audience whoop as the music starts and then there’s silence as we are captivated from the minute the story book opens.
Unlike the original film version from 22 years ago (yes, it really is that old!), we meet Mamma and Pappa Ogre as they send off their offspring into the big wide world at the tender age of seven!
After a little ‘ahh’ from the audience we see a blast of colour in the first number from the fairytale characters as they belt out ‘Big Bright Beautiful World’. With impeccable harmonies, terrific characterisation and great choreography, a superb ensemble cast deliver this high energy number, setting the pace of the show from the off.
The young audience squeal with delight as we go on to meet a grumpy, rather gross, grown-up Shrek and his fun loving, trusty side kick Donkey. Shrek, played by Antony Lawrence is superb, every characteristic that we have seen in the Dreamworks movies, brought to life. Along with terrific vocals and a great Scottish accent, his chemistry with Brandon Lee Sears as Donkey is hilarious and heartwarming. Sears’ energy as donkey is outstanding, often running around on ‘four legs, his comedic character is brilliantly executed, and his singing and dance performances equally as good.
Joanne Clifton, known for her appearances on Strictly Come Dancing, breathes new life into the role of Princess Fiona, portraying her as a no-nonsense, down-to-earth princess, especially as when she has a ‘Parp-Off’ with Shrek on the number ‘I Think I Got You Beat’ – not what one expects in a theatre show! But this is Shrek after all (and no matter what age you are, farts are funny!).
James Gillan brings a reimagined Lord Farquaad, whose camp demeanour and over-the-top hair flicking goes down a treat. This new production of Shrek shows the dragon puppet along with the very talented Cherece Richards, also dressed in the most amazing costume ,as the dragon. Aanyone who has seen the original London production would remember an enormous singing dragon puppet. At times this was a little discombobulating. I’ll need to watch this number several times over to see what I have missed.
With eye-catching performances from ensemble cast members Georgie Buckland (outstanding vocals as Gingy/Elf/Bluebird and Dragon Puppeteer) and Jonathan David Dudley as Captain of the Guards/Pied Piper/Priest ( different accents, all hilariously done), the whole cast are first class performers, with too many to mention separately.
Set and Costume design by Philip Witcomb is incredible – colourful and sparkly – everything one would expect to see in such a lavish fairytale show. There’s also stunning projection and video work throughout by Nina Dunn (for Pixel LTD) giving slick changes from scene to scene.
Magical changes as Fiona morphs from princess to ogre are mind blowing and leave us wondering how they did it.
The music is uplifting and fun, especially ‘Welcome to Duloc’, ‘Travel Song’ and ‘Big Bright Beautiful World’. At the end we all join in for the iconic ‘I’m A Believer’. Looking around the audience everyone is smiling and clapping along. For sure, Shrek is a true tonic to this cold and damp October.
‘Shrek The Musical’ is at Bradford Alhambra, Tuesday 24 – Saturday 28 October 2023