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Shrek the Musical - Norwich Theatre Royal (26.03.2024)

Despite it being an almost unbelievable 23 years since the DreamWorks smash hit graced our cinema screens, the stage version ensures that Shrek feels as fresh as ever.

Retaining much of the beloved charm and daft humour, the show follows the main storyline of the first Shrek movie, with our lovable but cantankerous hero setting out on a journey to reclaim his swamp after it's invaded by a group of fairytale characters who have been banished from their hometown by the evil Lord Farquaad.

Along the way, Shrek meets his 'noble steed' and faithful companion, Donkey, and also falls in love with Princess Fiona, who after rescuing her from her tower, turns out to be not quite as she first appears.

Antony Lawrence does a superb job of embodying the physical presence of Shrek, even if the Scottish accent is a little muddled. Alongside some wonderful vocals, he also displayed deft dancing feet, and an all round charming performance. Deputising in the role of Princess Fiona in this performance was Imogen Bailey, and she absolutely sparkled in the role with her beautiful vocals and quirky comedic performance.

James Gillan blew me away with his riotously funny and camp portrayal of the villainous Farquaad, and in the comedy stakes he was run a close second by a brilliant Brandon Lee Sears as Donkey. Both Gillan and Sears were able to showcase their brilliant vocal skills too.

There’s a fairly large supporting cast, with a few of the fairytale characters contributing cameo performances. Chief among these was Cheree Richards whose incredible vocals as the dragon provided some real jaw-dropping moments. Mark D’arcy as Pinocchio also stood out for his brilliant movement, dance, and comedy. However, the company was really at its impressive best as a collective, with their tight, energetic choreography in big musical numbers such as the tap-dancing spectacular Morning Person.

The staging is a hybrid of physical set and animated projections onto a series of layered screens. These offer plenty of colour and visual appeal to the show, and ensures scene changes don't interrupt the relentless pace of the show.

With its song about flying your "freak flag", I'm sure there's a moral in there about self-image and not judging books by their covers etc. For me though, this is simply a fantastically produced, wholesome piece of family entertainment from a hugely talented company that will delight children and adults alike.

Shrek the Musical continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until 30 March.


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