REVIEW: Shrek the Musical – Theatre Royal – Nottingham


The touring production of Shrek the Musical at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal presents a mixed bag of performances and production elements, offering a rich tapestry of both highlights and shortcomings. Led by a talented principal cast lineup and overseen by a creative team aiming to reimagine the beloved Broadway and West End hit, the show brings together classic characters and iconic songs from the original musical, promising an evening of entertainment and nostalgia.

Based on the hit film from DreamWorks Animation, Shrek the Musical invites audiences to journey into the fantastical realm of Far Far Away, where fairy tale characters come to life in a delightful stage adaptation. The story follows the grouchy yet endearing ogre, Shrek, as he sets off on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona from the clutches of the villainous Lord Farquaad. Joined by his hilarious companion Donkey and an ensemble of quirky characters, Shrek discovers the true meaning of friendship, love, and acceptance in this enchanting tale filled with humour, heart, and toe-tapping musical numbers.

Kicking off with the cast, it’s evident that each performer brings their own flair and interpretation to their respective roles. James Gillan’s portrayal of Farquaad stands out, offering a fresh and dynamic take on the character. Gillan navigates the role with skill and charisma, injecting humour and depth into his performance. Georgia Buckland’s rendition of Gingy is another highlight, showcasing a show-stopping voice with impressive range and flawless execution of riffs. Meanwhile, Jonathan David Dudley’s versatility shines through in his portrayal of multiple characters, infusing each with excellent characterisation and comedic timing, adding depth and dimension to the production.

However, while the cast delivers commendable performances, there’s a pervasive sense throughout the production that it feels somewhat cheap in terms of design. The overuse of projections as a substitute for proper set pieces contributes to this perception, creating an atmosphere that lacks the richness and depth expected from a theatrical experience of this calibre. Combined with costumes that lack polish and fail to evoke the magic and whimsical nature of the show, the overall aesthetic falls short of expectations, leaving the audience feeling somewhat underwhelmed. While the performances strive to elevate the material, the production’s design choices detract from the immersive experience, ultimately hampering its ability to fully transport viewers into the enchanting world of Shrek.

Furthermore, the script’s revisions, which aim to remove politically incorrect jokes, unfortunately, highlight the thinness of the material. While it’s understandable to strive for sensitivity and inclusivity, the absence of adequate replacements for these jokes leaves certain scenes feeling flat and devoid of the original wit and charm. This accentuates the importance of a robust script, one that can stand on its own merits and engage audiences without relying on outdated humour.

The decision to portray Lord Farquaad without dwarfism and instead opting for a campy interpretation, while aiming to bring a fresh perspective to the character, unfortunately falls into the trap of substituting one harmful stereotype for another. By portraying Farquaad as excessively camp, the production inadvertently reinforces stereotypes about LGBTQ+ individuals, perpetuating outdated and reductive notions of gender expression and sexuality. This choice risks overshadowing the character’s complexity and reducing him to a caricature, detracting from the nuanced portrayal that could have been achieved. While it’s commendable to explore new interpretations of well-known characters, it’s essential to approach such choices with sensitivity and awareness, ensuring that they do not reinforce harmful stereotypes or perpetuate prejudice.

Despite these drawbacks, the production boasts a talented principal cast lineup, with Antony Lawrence delivering a solid performance as Shrek, alongside Joanne Clifton as Princess Fiona and Brandon Lee Sears as Donkey. With additional creative contributions from acclaimed professionals such as director and choreographer Nick Winston, co-director Sam Holmes, the show endeavors to recreate the vibrant world of Shrek the Musical for a new audience.

In conclusion, while the touring production of Shrek the Musical offers moments of entertainment and strong performances, it ultimately falls short in terms of production quality and script adaptation. With room for improvement in capturing the essence of the beloved story, it remains a commendable effort that may resonate with fans of the original material or younger audiences while leaving others longing for a more cohesive and immersive theatrical experience.

Shrek the Musical plays at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until 24th March 2024 where it continues its UK tour. Tickets here.

Photography from Marc Brenner






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