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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at Theatre Royal Drury Lane


  Amanda Holden and Nigel Lindsay/ Ph: Helen Maybanks

Big, green and grumpy but good-hearted, the Scottish-accented ogre with the smart-mouthed donkey sidekick has landed in the West End for what is likely to be a long run. Opening in December 2008, Shrek the Musical lasted just over a year on Broadway before eventually embarking, after some changes were rung, on a national tour.


Now further retooled – via simpler sets, a more streamlined script and a new opening, among other changes – for the British market, it’s a polished and fully merchandised family-friendly crowd-pleaser featuring a fairly witty book (by David Lindsay-Abaire), a serviceable score (his lyrics coupled with Jeanine Tesori’s music) and a handful of adept leads supported by a lively and strong ensemble. For anyone whose expectations are not sky-high, the reward is an agreeable diversion with a nice line in both showbiz savvy and chutzpah.


With a title derived from the German/Yiddish word for "fear" or "terror," Shrek is based on the Oscar-winning 2001 animated film from Dreamworks that was itself adapted from New Yorker cartoonist-turned-children’s author William Steig’s 1990 book. Apparently it was Sam Mendes who first had the notion of converting this gently puckish satire of fairy tale tropes into a stage musical. It was, commercially speaking, not a bad idea given that the original film and its three sequels (plus spin-offs) constitute one of the most successful of contemporary film-based entertainment franchises.


Co-directed by Jason Moore and Rob Ashford, and designed by the Tony-winning Tim Hatley, the production is as bright, shiny and colourful as a pop-up book. After an opening that neatly parallels the childhood deprivations that shaped both Shrek and his future inamorata, Princess Fiona, into their defensive adult selves, the show wastes little time charting the machinations that subsequently bring them together.


Shrek (prosthetically bulked-up Nigel Lindsay) the misanthropic, swamp-dwelling "monster" and the talking Donkey (Richard Blackwood) that gloms onto him for protection are sent on a quest by the conspicuously height-challenged, fairy tale-hating Lord Farquaad (Nigel Harman) to retrieve the long-incarcerated, unconventionally feisty Fiona (Amanda Holden) from a tower guarded by a fire-breathing Dragon. Friendships are forged, but more crucial for the plot, a simple misunderstanding mars the flatulence-fuelled romance that begins to blossom between the green bloke and rescued royalty. It all ends happily, however, with liberation from misery for a pack of dispossessed fairy tale characters and an overriding message that beauty is only skin deep and true love can make anyone smell sweet.


I enjoyed and appreciated the skill of the film without, unlike millions worldwide, having fallen head over heels for its charms. (Familiarity breeds fans. The child-heavy audience at the weekend matinee I attended burst into applause at the first sightings of Shrek, Fiona and Donkey.) My response to this efficiently feel-good live version was similar. The material&rsquo


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