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Shrek The Musical - Edinburgh Playhouse Review by John Murray

Shrek The Musical has been touring since July 2023 and continues until April this year. The production opened at Theatre Royal Plymouth to great reviews and having played Glasgow just last week, it arrives at Edinburgh Playhouse this week until Saturday (January 27th).  

Anyone familiar with the Oscar-winning Dreamworks animated film will not be disappointed with this spectacular stage production.  The producers of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert and Hairspray formed a new creative team for the touring show following success in the West End and Broadway while showcasing the familiar story and songs by David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori’s original musical. Director and choreographer Nick Winston has assembled an experienced team for costume, lighting, sound, projection and puppet design.

The puppets in isolation are remarkable and so amusing. The dragon takes several performers to operate and makes several appearances while the Gingerbread man and Bluebird have starring roles and with Georgie Buckland, a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland on vocal duties the range is off the scale.  

The story generally follows the Dreamworks movie with ogre Shrek forced to leave home aged 7, living in a swamp, saving a talking Donkey, then to gain the deeds of his swamp he has to rescue the Princess and deliver to the Lord Farquaad to enable him to be King. However, the ogre and Princess fall for each other while the whole scenario is peppered with fairy tale characters ranging from Pinocchio to the Three Bears via the Pied Piper and three blind mice. Along the way, we get some big songs and a special mention for Chrece Richards as the Wicked Witch with an incredible range that shook the very foundation of the old Playhouse.  

Musical theatre fans will notice some subtle parodies in song and some large characters to give a pantomime vibe with comedy at its heart for all ages and some breaking wind effects that had the youngsters around me in stitches. James Gillan is a believable camp Lord Farquaad with his troupe of guards that wouldn’t be out of place in a Monty Python sketch (more parody). Antony Lawrence is a loveable Shrek perfecting his accents, movements and big vocals while the hugely talented former Strictly Come Dancing professional champion Joanne Clifton builds on her growing theatre experience to be a Princess Fiona with impressive movement and voice to match.  Brandon Lee Sears as Donkey shows great comedy timing and consistent athleticism in his role becoming an audience favourite.

There are many big songs throughout the show with Big Bright Beautiful World and I Know Its Today being the highlights of Act One.  The finale has This Is Our Story as a finisher before a rousing extended arrangement of the Neil Diamond/Monkees’ I’m A Believer has everyone on their feet giving several stellar vocal performances coupled with the whole cast and ensemble in a spectacular encore with lighting dance and powerful backing from Musical Director Richard Atkinson and his big sounding seven-piece orchestra.  

A happy ending and standing ovation for a capacity audience in this joyous show.

Shrek The Musical has been rated ★★★★

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