Shrek The Musical has become a global phenomenon with productions staged internationally, including on the West End and Broadway.
The good news about Shrek, the Musical is that as a fast paced and largely faithful adoption of the iconic series of animated films, you eventually have no excuse not to get your bums back into theatre seats, and few theatres deserve full houses as the spectacular Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City.
The talented Steven Stead from Durban based KickStart productions has delivered a well produced, superbly staged and enthusiastically acted production that appeals to young and old alike.
Kids will be engrossed, and easily get absorbed by the fairy-tale world portrayed so magnificently on stage although the run time may be a little too long for the very young.
The story line follows the first animated film’s story arc to the letter and all of the favourite characters from the ill-fated Gingerbread Man, Pinnochio, the cross-dressing Big Bad Wolf and even Donkey’s unexpected love-interest, a larger than life fire breathing Dragon, are all faithfully presented in the visually spectacular production.
I will admit to being a little skeptical of the introduction of songs to help progress the story especially as the original movie was a straight forward non-musical affair.
Happily all of the original songs in the produciton are genuinely intelligent and endearing, the lyrics witty and clever, and under the tight musical direction of Rowan Bakker never feel over-bearing or intrusive.
The talented local cast make the most of the witty script that has as much for the adults as it does for the youngster, and perform with a contagious energy and enthusiasm.
The spectacular costumes are breathtaking and undeniably contribute significantly to the staging of the show, starkly contrasting the rather simple, functional sets.
The locally created costume pieces, from the original Tony Award winning designs genuinely add depth to the story telling and afford the actors the ability to move closer to the fantasy of the world they inhabit, which is after all the whole point of the Shrek story!
As an ensemble of well rehearsed highly competent actors the headline cast all deliver well rounded performances. I personally wasn’t a massive fan of the overly camp Rory Booth’s portrayal of Donkey, maybe Eddie Murphy has just made the material too much his own?
Interestingly a stand-out voice characterisation by Graeme Wicks makes the fantastically costumed Pinocchio a surprise high point of any scene he appeared in, and Lyle Buxton as Shrek (with a commendably consistent and pitch perfect Scottish accent)
While Jessica Sole portrayal as the “mis-understood” Princess Fiona firmly holds this family friendly swamp-romp together.
It is however Jacobus Van Heerden in a physically demanding role as the diminutive Lord Farquaad that romps home with the highest acting accolades. He delivers a comedically brilliant performance made all the more difficult by the physical challenges places on the role due to the Shrek-Tacular way the short, angry, clearly-compensating villain is portrayed on the stage.
Overall Shrek, The Musical is a truly fantastic piece of musical theatre, perfectly pitched to it’s diminutive demographic.
It has enough to keep the children engrossed, and the accompanying adult’s entertained, and leaves you feeling guiltily that you “almost enjoyed it more than the kids”!
However, the real beauty of Shrek, the Musical is its conscious effort to attract a theatrical audience to a stage as magnificent as the Lyric.
I, for one, am a Believer!