The freak flag’s been flown and the green carpet rolled out – Shrek and his colourful crew of fairytale creatures have arrived at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Based on the 2001 DreamWorks animation, Shrek The Musical tells the story of the eponymous green ogre’s mission to save his home from the villainous (but pint-sized) Lord Farquaad. Along the way, he meets a talkative Donkey, and the pair set out on a quest like no other to save Princess Fiona and retrieve her for Farquaad. With music by Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home, Caroline or Change) and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, High Fidelity), the musical has already delighted Sydney audiences and has now set up swamp in Melbourne, before heading up to Brisbane’s Lyric Theatre from May.
From the moment you walked into the theatre, the energy was buzzing. A hilarious assortment of Shrek-related merchandise available for purchase, lots of green scattered throughout Her Maj’s lobby, we knew already that the night was going to be a good one.
First and foremost, the ensemble of this show are some of the hardest working I’ve seen recently. Switching between multiple characters, they managed to keep the energy at 100% throughout the entire show. Each fairytale character had such gusto, each bringing their own individual personalities to the stage. Special mentions have to be given to the powerhouses that are Sarah Murr (Mama Ogre/Fairy Godmother) and Denise Devlin (Mama Bear/The Dragon) for truly blowing away the audience, and Manon Gunderson-Briggs for a quite perfect performance as the iconic Gingy. Shrek The Musical is a true ensemble show. Every performer on that stage works together in brilliant cohesion to show off a fabulous, fun 2 and a bit hours.
I feel that with such brilliant performances, praise needs to be given to some of the unseen elements. The book of Shrek The Musical is so well written that it’s a fantastic tool for performers to take and actualise on stage. Intelligent gags, funny sound effects, and smart lyrics ensure the audience are in fits of laughter (even when unprompted!). Further credit must be given to Resident Director Luke Joslin and Resident Choreographer Cristina D’Agostino for maintaining the energy and the spirit of the piece throughout the production. Dave Skelton’s band were faultless, switching between countless musical styles as the show’s score progressed. The costume and makeup design was wonderful, and heightened that magical ‘fairytale’ quality of the show. And of course, the Dragon puppet was an absolute spectacle.
Todd McKenney shrunk to the occasion as the devilish Lord Farquaad, and Nate Jobe was a truly annoying-yet-loveable Donkey. Lucy Durack’s Princess Fiona was splashed with a new level of hilarity that I hadn’t seen before in this show – more sassy, and just a little bit brassy! But if you need a single reason to come and see the show, it should be Ben Mingay. In a suit that weighs almost 7kg, makeup and prosthetics that take about 2 hours to complete each show, and an ice vest strapped to his body underneath everything to keep him cool, he somehow makes playing Shrek seem like an easy feat. Ben is up there with such ease, such comfort in the role, that you’d assume this elaborate costuming is second nature. Plus, he nails every song.
Shrek The Musical is an amazing time for anyone, of all ages. A great adaptation of its source material, I implore everyone to trek down to the Swamp for a great night out.
I mean, where else will you see a fart battle happening live on stage?
Shrek The Musical is currently playing in Melbourne until April, and then moves to Brisbane from May.
For tickets and more information, please visit shrekthemusical.com.au