Shrek - Greasepaint and Stage Lights - Theatre Radio Show

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Shrek UK Tour
Reviewed at Milton Keynes
(Review Complete)

Shrek the Muiscal – Milton Keynes (UK Tour)
So off John and I went to Milton Keynes Theatre which had been turned into a swamp. For the UK tour of Shrek. If you’re looking for a lively, fun and well-rehearsed production, this version of Dreamworks animation film, will be right up your street. I mean swamp!
Short story of Shrek:
Shrek (Antony Lawrence) at the age of seven is sent away as all ogres are by their mother to fend for themselves. Soon he discovers his own corner of heaven. A swamp where he can be himself. Which is rather revolting at times. Move on several years and Shrek’s private swamp is invaded by a mass of fairytale creatures having been exiled by the evil Lord Farquaad. As you can imagine Shrek is not too pleased with this and decides the only way to rid himself of all these characters is to find Lord Farquaad (James Gillan) and ask him what he’s playing at and too demand his swamp back! So off Shrek goes. On route he comes across a talking Donkey (Brandon Lee Sears). Loveable, but extremely annoying, as he won’t stop talking!  eventually they both arrive in Duloc A city where Lord Farquaad resides. But there is a further twist. For Shrek to get his swamp back he must rescue Princess Fiona (Joanne Clifton) Shrek must rescue her from her prison tower so she can marry Lord Farquaad and make him King. But he must kill the Dragon (Cheree Richards) who is holding Princess Fiona. And so the adventure begins..

Thanks to some clever projection the storybook, we see as we enter the theatre comes to life and each page is represented by a full back projection, such as Swamp, Castle, Duloc etc. Some of the back projection was very impressive. I must say that the staging was extremely good and believable. Well done the creative team!
The touring production has to be set up in many theatres across the UK, some small and some as big, if not bigger that the Milton Keynes Theatre. So, I feel it has been scaled back somewhat. But it did allow us, the audience to have a lot to look at. It was a shame we couldn’t interact in someway! After all it was a fairytale. Wasn’t it?
With a cast of twenty one playing characters such as the ugly duckling, Pinocchio, The sugar Plum fairy, the wicked witch, the three bears and three pigs amongst others they certainly filled the stage. All of the ensemble’s had plenty of energy and movement. I defy you to find an ensemble that manages to deliver dancing and singing in the style that this lot did, with some of the swing playing multiple roles! A seven piece orchestra, delivered a clear punchy sound that filled the theatre led by Richard Atkinson.
Shrek comes out fast and powerful with his distinct Scottish accent. He maintains this character throughout. There’s no doubting his energy and commitment, His laughter and flatulence was infectious with laughter rippling from us old and younger members in the audience captivated in complete astonishment seeing shrek come to life on the stage. I must point out, that his version of ‘Who I’d Be’ was one of the highlights and really brought to the surface, a sensitive Shrek. It was a beautiful heartfelt performance.
As Princess Fiona, Joanne Clifton is a fun to watch. She brought the strong character to life in her role. She managed to bring a lot to this character. I enjoyed her interpretation as princess Fiona. Completing the iconic trio was Brand Lee Sears as Donkey. Brand Lee physicality brought his character to life. As for his vocals, brilliant Some of his musical numbers were huge and appreciated by the applause of the audience. He delivered every ounce of class and expression that Eddie Murphy would be proud of.
For me there was a big disappointment in the form of Lord Farquaad James Gillan, as he was too camp and normal height! I know it is not appropriate to have actors on their knees, but the character did need to be shorter and more in tune with the film character. The ballad of Farquaad, which for me is one of the funniest songs, lost its comedy element as I was too busy watching Lord Farquaad, parading around the stage in an ‘over-the-top’ campness which spoilt it. It was hard for me to pay attention to what he was doing on stage. When his father appeared near the end of the show it was even more obvious as his father was somewhat shorter than he was. Could this person have played Lord Farquaad?
The fairytale characters in this production were flawless in their individual performances, as their individual characters. This Musical has fantastic ensemble numbers and this production’s ensemble performances were just right! The actor who played the voice of the gingerbread Georgie Buckland was superb. Others that stuck out for me were Cherece Richards whose performance as the Dragon brought the house down without a breath of fire to be seen. What an incredible performance.
The musical ended (which seems to be the trend now) with a song where you are asked by the cast to get on your feet and dance to a bass pounding rendition of ‘I’m A Believer’ followed by a little bit of Lulu’s shout!
Apart from Lord Farquaad, which I hasten to add was not the actor’s fault, but whoever directed him, made him too camp and it lost my vision and excitement for what I feel is one of the funniest songs of the show, as I was too distracted.
Shrek the musical, is fun, exciting and great for younger audience members that remember the film. It has some great songs and dance routines, but it does come across disjointed in places, with some scenes having two characters on stage only and there were lots of these. So for me. A great night out, but not a bobby dazzler!

Reviewer Mark Bilsby.
Greasepaint and Stage Lights

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