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Shrek: The Musical @ Sunderland Empire

February 2, 2018 2:30 pm

For more Sunderland Empire listings, click here

Review by Olivia Gardener

Laura Main as Princess Fiona and Steffan Harri as Shrek. Shrek the Musical. Credit Helen Maybanks

Green is the new black!

Shrek: The Musical has took off around the UK and has landed at the Sunderland Empire for two weeks only! Before going to the show I had heard great reviews from family members who had seen the show in its previous run; however I must admit I was quite apprehensive about the concept of it, being a big fan of the movies (a little bigger than I care to admit). Nevertheless, I must say it lived up to the hype!

The first thing I must mention is the settings. They were amazing! All of which had a great amount of detail and flowed seamlessly from one to the next. These detailed settings along with the fantastic visual affects meant that the whole thing felt like more of a cinematic experience than a theatre performance. An example being the fire-breathing dragon which guards the highest room of the tallest tower. This being an understandably hard thing to capture on a limited scale, I was expecting a screen to drop down in front of the audience with a low quality animation trying to vaguely capture the presence of a 30ft dragon. However, this was definitely not the case. No expense spared, the creature flew onto the stage in almost puppet form (it reminded me of the dragons used in the Chinese New year festivals), brought to life by people dressed in black as to blend in with the background. This worked extremely well and you could hardly see the puppeteers guiding the creature all over the stage, as she fluttered her eyelashes and belted out a catchy number about the love of her life, Donkey of course! This just being one of the visual effects throughout the show, I often found my self asking ‘how did they do that?’ and admittedly being a pessimist, ‘where’s the harness that’s lifting her up?’. However, I could not answer these questions as the show just worked so well and flowed so smoothly I couldn’t tell. For me, this gave the show that extra ‘wow’ factor, since I was able to relax and watch the show instead of cringing in my seat awaiting the next awkward set change or technical issue.

I was not let down on the costume and make-up front either! Steffan Harri’s (Shrek) attire was great and looked very convincing, but I couldn’t help wondering how he was able to put on such a wonderful performance whilst dressed in a suit which swamped his whole body and green paint slapped all over his face. Very hot and uncomfortably I suppose! Fiona’s (Laura Main) get up was also great, and again, made me ask ‘how did she do that?’ when she transformed from the beautiful princess to a scary ogre in a matter of seconds. Pinocchio’s (Joseph Dockree) make-up was also very detailed and realistic. I loved the sub plot of the rebellion lead by the puppet and all other fairy tale creatures against the injustice they’d endured at the hands of the new king. This added a break from the main plot and was also accompanied by some smashing songs. Although the character of Donkey (Marcus Ayton) was imitated perfectly, I feel he could have been pushed even further by the use of new script material rather than the repetition of jokes and quotations from the original movie. I think this would have added even more character to our noble steed, rather than something which had just been copied and pasted out of the film. Although I cannot criticise any of the cast, as I thought every character gave a faultless performance, it was definitely Lord Farquaad (Samuel Holmes) who stole the show. His fabulous attitude and flamboyant musical show stoppers were hilarious and I can honestly say I couldn’t stop laughing from start to finish! We also got more of a back-story to his character, which just added more laughs and greater comedic affect.

Overall, all of the elements which make a great musical were there: a cracking musical track, creative costumes, a stand out setting, laugh out loud humour, and of course, everyone loves a happily ever after!

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