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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Shrek - The Musical
Drury Lane Theatre   2011 - 2013

Based on the very popular animated film about the ogre and the princess, this Broadway musical has a pretty much guaranteed family audience. And they will not be disappointed Shrek The Musical is an enjoyable, accessible evening.

On the other hand, it is not likely that they will carry away memories to last a lifetime Shrek The Musical is a solid, polished but not especially imaginative or exciting translation from film to stage.

The musical's creators writer-lyricist David Lindsay-Abaire, composer Jeanine Tesori, directors Jason Moore and Rob Ashford, designer Tim Hatley have taken what might be called the Beauty And The Beast route, of duplicating the look and feel of the film as closely as possible, as opposed to the Lion King route of re-imagining it for the stage.

Except, perhaps, for the fact that the Donkey is clearly a man in a donkey suit and the diminutive Farquaad is obviously a man on his knees, there is no need for any audience members familiar with the film to stretch their imagination or be surprised by what they see.

The generally low-tech set made mainly of cartoon cutouts has the feel of a high-budget Panto and might even disappoint those anticipating spectacular effects or theatrical magic with one notable exception.

The amorous dragon makes two appearances, the first delightfully magical in a purely theatrical way, and the second as spectacular as anyone could ask for.

As song writers, Lindsay-Abaire and Tesori have for the most part chosen to shoehorn their songs into the action rather than integrate them by replacing dialogue, so the story occasionally stops dead for the almost randomly-placed insertion of a song or dance.

The songs themselves are not memorable, though their concept or staging sometimes is. 'I Think I Got You Beat' is a one-upsmanship contest between Shrek and Princess Fiona that delights the kids by developing into a belching and farting competition, and for no discernible reason (except that it's fun) Fiona has a song-and-dance routine with some rats that builds from a clever visual joke to a grand Hollywood production number. (On the other hand, the songs for Farquaad and for the dispossessed fairy tale characters are particularly poor.)

Nigel Lindsay invests Shrek with as much personality as a man in a green prosthetic head and fat suit can, though he has to fight through so much distancing that you might sometimes wonder if, like Darth Vader, the body and the voice were two separate people.

Amanda Holden nicely captures the mix of romance and no-nonsense feminism in Fiona and, as undoubtedly the best singer and dancer onstage, injects some welcome Broadway razzmatazz.

Richard Blackwood channels Eddie Murphy as the Donkey, and Nigel Harmon appropriately mugs his way through Farquaad. Everyone else doubles and quadruples roles, with Landi Oshinowo standing out for the Motown-flavoured sound and attitude she gives the voice of the dragon.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Shrek - Drury Lane 2011

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