shrek and Fiona

Beautiful ain't always pretty:  Dean Chisnall as Shrek about to rescue Princess Fiona played by Bronté Barbé. Pictures: Helen Maybanks

Shrek – The Musical

Wolverhampton Grand


SO what’s fun, a little portly and just a might malodorous, flatulent – oh and did I mention Green? It must be Shrek.

If you have a giant, green, friendly (a bit grumpy sometimes mind) ogre who is . . . gastronomically expressive at both ends, a rescued princess who can match him in the gas powered department, a talking wisecracking donkey and prince farquaada comic baddy and his guards, who would feel right at home in Spamalot – then you have all the ingredients for a fast moving family musical.

The Oscar winning animated film was a huge hit with enough in it to appeal to adults as well as children and that formula is continued in the musical with plenty of asides and witty lines hidden in songs as well as affectionate references to a whole host of other films from Dirty Dancing through to Les Miserables tucked into the script from David Lindsay-Abaire, who also wrote the lyrics to Jeanine Tesori’s music.

Gerard Carey as the pocket prince, Farquaad the mighty . . .small

Songs ranged from the catchy to the more thoughtful and even sad ballads as we followed Shrek, not so much abandoned as sent out to find his own way in the world by his parents at the age of seven, in his quest to find solitude in his own swamp.

The swamp he lived in has been overrun after becoming the enforced home to a whole host of fairytale characters exiled from Dulac by the evil, and remarkably funny Prince Farquaad played by Gerard Carey.

Carey must be one of the few actors where calloused knees are an occupational hazard as he prances and dances the vertically challenged (by about three foot) prince about the stage. It is a glorious performance, a real comic gem.

Dean Chisnall has played Shrek so long and for so many times his skin must be turning naturally green by now. He is the only person still in the show who was in the first UK performance of Shrek in 2011 and took over the lead role in February 2012.

It all results in a very comfortable and believable performance by an actor who has made a role his own. He makes Shrek real for adults and children alike. We all know he is an ogre, and just another fairy story but we care about him and he gets sympathetic “awes” from the audience whenever things are going wrong for him.

Idriss Kargbo takes on the Eddie Murphy film role of the donkey and isdragon and donkey another who makes it his own in a performance laced with fun. Like Carey, and indeed Chisnell, he has been with the tour since the start and the three work well together

Which brings us to the beautiful Princess Fiona played by Bronté Barbé, who, incidentally started the tour as Little Red Riding Hood before being elevated to royalty in July this year and she gives a regal, sassy performance allied to a great voice.

Fiona has been imprisoned in a tower - apparently it is the fate of all the best princesses - awaiting rescue by a handsome, dashing prince, or, in this case, a somewhat well padded, handsome only if you like bald with green skin and ears on stalks, ogre.

Idriss Katgbo as Donkey with his own personal concert by the soul- singing dragon, with the voice of Candace Furbert

Guarding her to prevent rescue is a brilliant singing dragon, raced around stage by four puppeteers and with a bluesy jazz voice to die for from Candace Furbert who also doubles as Fairy Godmother.

The puppeteers don’t get off that easy by the way, Will Haswell is a guard and the cleverly done Pinocchio, Keith Henderson is a guard and a rather elderly Peter Pan, Tyan Reid is a pig, a guard and a bishop while Kevin Yates is a pig and a guard. – no rest for the wicked, or good or indeed anyone in fairytale land who provide a hardworking and slick ensemble.

They turn up as guards, tap dancing rats, a whole host of fairytale characters from the three pigs to a 37 year-od Peter Pan, the Gingerbread man, three pigs, three bears . . . you name it and they will be in there somewhere.

A mention too for musical director Dave Rose and his 12 piece band providing the excellent music for a show which is  plenty of fun, with a little drama, a little sadness, catchy songs and gentle melodies, nothing too scary and a standing ovation at the end.

The result was a lot of very excited, very tired and very happy children and plenty of smiling adults heading off into the night air and you can’t ask more than that. Directed by Nigel Harman, Shrek runs to 11-10-15.

Roger Clarke



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