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16th Aug 2023

Lord Farqaad steals the show in Shrek the Musical at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre

Katy Thornton

I was all geared up to fall accidentally in love all over again.

I can remember watching Shrek for the first time when I was five, and even in my childlike state, I seemed to understand that this was a movie that would stand the test of time.

How do I know this? I probably watched it once a week for the better part of a year, and did the same when Shrek 2 came out in 2004 (the strongest sequel to a film since The Godfather II, or so I’m told) (My Ken hasn’t sat me down to watch that yet).

The subliminal messaging of the film stuck with me, and rewatching as an adult has only increased my love of the story, all of which is to say I was extremely excited to take a seat at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and fall in love with Shrek all over again.

The music

Something to be aware of. If you’re hoping to get lost in the OG soundtrack, with the likes of “Hallelujah”, “I’m On My Way”, and “Bad Reputation” – you won’t. The musical soundtrack is completely different, jam-packed with new songs and I’m glad that I knew this heading into the show, given how iconic the film soundtrack was and continues to be 22 years later.

However, you will hear “Welcome to Duloc” and “I’m A Believer”, so there’s a little something for nostalgia’s sake, which long-time lovers of the film like myself could appreciate.

This musical had a tough act to follow, and in many ways was always doomed to fall short where the soundtrack was concerned. While everyone’s vocals were on point, particularly for Cherece Richards who played Dragon, and Brandon Lee Sears who played Donkey, I found it hard to reconcile some of Shrek’s songs with what we know about his character from the films. Antony Lawrence gave it his all despite being adorned in green face paint and prosthetics, but alas there was something lacking.

The characters

In fact, the most underwhelming part of Shrek the Musical was its titular character. While the OG Shrek is grumpy and cynical, a fairytale protagonist unlike one we’d previously seen, this rendition is something softer, despite the many (and I mean, MANY) fart jokes. Though he shares many lines with the film version, the necessary grit for his character just wasn’t there. In this way, the musical becomes something new, despite following the same story, and provides a more didactic message about not judging a book by its cover for the younger audience, all of whom were literally dancing and fist-bumping during each song.

And what the musical lost in grit, it made up for in camp-ness. One character that I actually think was an improvement on the original was Lord Farqaad, played by James Gillan, who entranced the audience with every flip of his oh-so-shiny wig. In fact, I was genuinely sad to not see more of him, and actually lamented when he was burned to death by Dragon, where I once would have cheered. For children who watch the film for the first time following the musical, I actually think they’ll be disappointed by the Farqaad they get instead.

Another scene-stealer was Dumpy, I mean Donkey (who true to the nickname ass, had a very bodacious behind, at least his costume did, I’m not just objectifying Sears). His exuberant performance would have done Eddie Murphy proud and added a little spice to our noble steed in the best way.

Throw in Joanne Clifton’s bang on take of Princess Fiona, and the host of magical creatures such as Pinocchio, The Big “Bad” wolf, and Fairy Godmother (which sadly did not involve a rendition of “Holding Out For A Hero” – let’s just hope Shrek 2 The Musical is in the works) who’s enthusiasm was nothing short of infectious, and this is a musical that will have you smiling between bursts of laughter the entire way through.

Overall thoughts

This musical had its work cut out and it’s probably unfair for someone who has such a core memory of watching Shrek as a child to compare the musical and film, although naturally anyone above a certain age is going to do just that. It managed to create a fresh approach, adding some backstory for the likes of Shrek and Fiona, while including some of our favourite scenes almost word for word from the movie, including the interrogation between the Gingerbread Man and Lord Farqaad. Yes, I laughed heartily at the all too familiar question, “Do you know the muffin man?”

While the transition from film to musical isn’t always seamless, Shrek the Musical was a very solid 7/10 for an adult who grew up loving the story. As for all the children in the audience, or the adult man whooping with laughter every two minutes behind me, I’d say it would rank even higher still.

Shrek the Musical is showing at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until Sunday August 20th – you can purchase tickets on their website now.

Header images via Instagram / Shrek Tour UK

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