REVIEW:Shrek The Musical – Fairytales do come true

PUBLISHED: 15:05 10 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:14 13 August 2018

Shrek and Princess Fiona happy to be in their swamp made for two.

Shrek and Princess Fiona happy to be in their swamp made for two.

©Tristram Kenton

A loveable green ogre bellowed his way into The Hippodrome theatre this week as the smash hit West End show Shrek The Musical returned to Bristol.

The cast of Shrek - The Musical.The cast of Shrek - The Musical.

Based on the story and characters from William Steig’s book Shrek! and the Oscar-winning DreamWorks Animations feature film, the musical takes on its own persona being more like an adult panto with its warm humour and childish charm.

Unlikely hero Shrek and his loyal steed Donkey embark on a quest to rescue the beautiful (if slightly temperamental) Princess Fiona from a fire-breathing, love-sick dragon. Add the diminutive Lord Farquaad, a gang of fairytale misfits and a biscuit with attitude, and you have something for the whole family to enjoy.

Shrek was played last night by understudy Michael Carolan who interpreted the character’s two sides of a grumpy loner and someone who just wants to be loved and accepted with great aplomb. His comic timing, with a liberal sprinkling of sarcastic one-liners, was expertly done, even if his Scottish accent wavered in parts. He had the audience eating out of the palm of his hands, especially when he overhears a conversation between Donkey and Princess Fiona supposedly calling him an ugly monster at which point sympathetic ‘ahhhhh’s could be heard rippling through the audience.

Princess Fiona was superbly played by X-Factor runner-up Amelia Lily, who showcased her musical talent to great effect but also threw herself into the comedic aspect of the character, making her a very warm and likeable princess.

Steffan Harri as Shrek.Steffan Harri as Shrek.

Marcus Ayton was a very loveable Donkey, striking the right balance between being intensely irritating and nervous, and being streetwise and extremely loyal.

The fairytale folk bring a great deal of humour and charm to the show, giving an insight into the possible motives behind their centuries-old characters. The Gingerbread Man, or Gingy, in particular was hilarious with his sweet appearance revealing a hidden depth of angry maliciousness, brilliantly played by Jemma Revell who doubles as the Sugar Plum Fairy. I also enjoyed Joseph Dockree’s portrayal of Pinocchio, the group’s spokesman, whose screechy voice and vulnerability never wavered, even when negotiating an extending nose.

But the undoubted star of the show is Samuel Holmes who was absolutely perfect in the role of haughty, quintessentially English, much misunderstood Lord Farquaad. As soon as he appeared on stage on his knees, with tiny stick-on legs, as the pint-size bad guy the audience melted into fits of giggles and the ensuing dance routines with him waving the legs around never got tired, nor did his snide, sarcastic asides to the audience.

Despite seeing the show before in the West End I cannot say I have taken to any of the songs, which, apart from the cult Shrek anthem I’m a Believer, were written especially for the musical. Usually the day after seeing a show there will be at least one melody I cannot get out of my head but not in this case.

Laura Main as Princess Fiona and Steffan Harri as Shrek in Shrek The Musical. Picture: Helen MaybanksLaura Main as Princess Fiona and Steffan Harri as Shrek in Shrek The Musical. Picture: Helen Maybanks

However the show is a good one, the sets are clever, the characters engaging and the jokes, including lots of topical references, are on-point. So one which should definitely be on your must-see list, especially if you have children over five. Unfortunately last night the audience seemed to be full of very small children who were noisy and therefore spoiled parts of the performance from where I was sitting. I took my ten-year-old who thoroughly enjoyed it, despite not being a big fan of the films, and nagged me for an overpriced Gingerbread Man hand-puppet from the merchandise stall afterwards!

The show was seen by nearly 800,000 people on its first highly-acclaimed UK and Ireland tour in 2014, visiting 25 major venues over 20 months. The production was first staged in the UK at London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in 2011.

Shrek The Musical is at the Hippodrome until August 19, with performances at 7pm each night and matinees at 1pm or 2.30pm.

Tickets, priced £17.50-£19.50, are available via

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