Regular readers (if applicable) may recall that my sister's a big fan of Nigel Harman, so Shrek the Musical was her choice of XmasTM present this year. A rather ironic choice of films to give the all-singing all-dancing treatment to, given the running joke about the title character having no truck with spontaneous singalongs. That particular trait is unsurprisingly gone from the stage adaptation, but large chunks of the book (and the odd song lyric) are lifted word for word from the screenplay, meaning too many of the jokes feel stale. The story is followed pretty much exactly as in the film, but the anarchic charm hasn't come with it. Looking like an oversized, big-budget panto it's a perfect show for kids but the adult crossover appeal rarely surfaces. And the recurring references to other hit musicals are a cheap gag that never really comes off - the Les Mis gag is so cursory I wondered why they bothered.
Harman is the show-stealer as the tiny Lord Farquaad (some of the cast could do with being a bit more careful how they pronounce that name!) performing the whole show shuffling on his knees with tinyt fake legs strapped to them. The fact that they don't try that hard to hide his real legs is the source of a lot of good sight gags. Kimberley Walsh as Princess Fiona is a pleasant surprise, a very likeable female lead who sings well, and the puppet dragon powerfully voiced by Landi Oshinowo is a highlight. In the title role, a heavily made-up Nigel Lindsay is hampered by the fact that Shrek is a double act with Donkey, and he has little chemistry with a miscast Richard Blackwood who only really comes to life during "Make a Move." Not many songs stand out, with "I Think I Got You Beat" my sister's favourite. Fortunately she enjoyed her XmasTM present for what it was, though mainly due to Harman's presence. He and Walsh largely stop this from becoming a soulless affair but unlike the film this failed to charm me.Shrek the Musical
by David Lindsay-Abare and Jeanine Tesori is booking until the 21st of October at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.