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Theatre Review: Shrek the Musical - Edinburgh Playhouse ✭✭✭✭

 Review by Graeme Shield


Modern fairytale and global film franchise phenomenon Shrek transforms the Edinburgh Playhouse stage into a swamp for the gloriously silly Shrek The Musical.

For those of you who have been locked in a dungeon and haven’t seen the movie, Shrek The Musical is a faithful retelling of a grumpy ogre Shrek’s quest to save Princess Fiona for scheming Lord Farquaad. 
This unapologetically word-for-word recreation of the film is injected with a dash of musical theatre sparkle, adding in brilliant ensemble numbers while lacking in any memorable melodies to sing on the way home (other than the toe-tapping finale of “I’m A Believer!”).

Where the movie cleverly pastiches Disney, the show references Broadway behemoths Les Miserables and The Lion King, as well as blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nods to Chicago and Dreamgirls (and did I spot a reference to Gypsy?). Whereas Monty Python’s Spamalot uses the genre as a device to poke fun and satirise, Shrek The Musical nudges musical theatre lovingly without ever really veering from the story it’s trying to tell.

Dean Chisnall’s lovable Shrek was a perfect mix of grumpiness and warmth, while Idriss Kargbo creates a sassy (if sometimes unintelligible) Donkey. Completing the principal line up were Bronté Barbé’s feisty and lovable Princess Fiona and Gerard Casey’s hysterically funny Lord Farquaad. Although the height-based Farquaad gags are sometimes cheap, they are never anything less than hilarious. (I’m starting a campaign for his own ‘spin-off’ musical right here…Farquaad Of The Opera, anyone?)

They are ably supported by a huge array of colourful characters, most notably Pinocchio played by Will Haswell, Gingerbread Man played by Nikki Bentley and the gorgeous purple Dragon - brought to life by a team of skilled puppeteers and the incredible Candace Furbert – her vocals sent me to a kingdom far, far away.

Despite the lack of memorable tunesShrek The Musical combines a fantastic ensemble cast of recognisable characters, a mesmerizing spectacle (set, costume, special effects and puppetry are some of the best to come out of the West End on tour) with silliness to concoct a truly magical night out for all the family.

Shrek The Musical is playing at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Nov 8th. For more information or to book tickets, visithttp://www.atgtickets.com/venues/edinburgh-playhouse/ or call the Box Office on 0131 524 3301.

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