Shrek: The Musical at The Liverpool Empire Theatre

Posted on 27 November 2015
By Chris High
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Here’s a statement: Shrek: The Musical which is currently running at The Liverpool Empire Theatre, is every bit as colourful, huge and – above all – funny as anything ever staged at this theatre, with sets to die for, costumes that glitter brighter than the Christmas lights on Castle Street, choreography to make Len Goodman weep tears of joy and a cast that re quite simply sensational.

To say that this touring production of the monolithic Dreamworks movie and successful West End show is as about perfect as any show has any right to be would be no exaggerartion, as from firstb to last the laughs gurgle and bubble up like warm springs in the green Ogre’s swamp, so that the audience are immediately engaged and remain so throughout then proceedings, with a myriad of Fairy Tale characters putting in hilarious cameos.

Yet, if the film is memorable for the principals, then the musical version need to deliver the same and here Dean Chisnall as Shrek, replete with luminous green skin, sack clothing and massive boots delivers a performance that should be in the handbook for enthusiastic and energised acting that knocks spots off many of his peers. Bronte Barbe as Princess Fiona proves that hers a singing voice to and acting prowess to marvel over, particularly during the hilarious Morning Person that starts Act II, whereas Idris Kargbo’s Donkey is easily a match for that of Eddie Murphy’s portrayal in the movie.

Yet it is Gerard Carey’s evil-if-diminutive Lord Farquaad that pours yet more sprinkles on this most entertaining of trifles, adds a touch of brandy and sets the whole thing alight in a blaze of glory. Carey’s mannerisms, timing, delivery and even looks all bring home memories of Monty Python’s Eric Idle at his very finest, yet all the while never ever overstepping the line and becoming preposterous, with the Ballad of Farquaad being the song that makes the price of the ticket almost worth spending out on in its own right. And all this whilst performing, quite literally, on his knees.

The script is close-to-the-knuckle and panto-esque, with some of the many jokes being aimed directly at the many adults in attendance, the dancing, effects (watch the transformation of Fiona from little girl to frustrated adult and be amazed) and sets designs are quite simply magical, whereas the puppets, especially The Dragon and The Gingerbread Man will have you both Ooohing and Ahhing, as well as laughing out loud at every turn.

A cunning combination of Lion King for its grandiose and Spamalot for its outrageous hilarity, Shrek: The Musical is a Fairy Tale within a Fairy Tale and what has been created for the stage is nothing short of being an exquisite, princely and downright hilarious two hours and twenty minutes of unadulterated joy.

Shrek; The Musical
Liverpool Empire Theatre
November 25 – December 6
Producer; Dreamworks Theatricals
Author: David Lindsay-Abaire
Director: Nigel Harman
Choreographer: Josh Prince
Set, Puppets & Costumes: Tim Hatley
Cast includes: Dean Chisnall, Bronte Barbe, Gerard Carey, Idris Kargbo
PR Rating: ***** Gigantic