Theatre review: Shrek The Musical

Nigel Lindsay, Amanda Holden, Nigel Harman and Richard Blackwood impress in musical

HE’S a mean, green, not-so-lean belching machine – qualities which help ogre, Shrek, on his quest to rescue the imprisoned Princess Fiona.

Shrek The Musical, starring Nigel Lindsay as Shrek, Amanda Holden as Princess Fiona, Nigel Harman as Lord Farquaad and Richard Blackwood as Donkey, is at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, until February 19, 2012.

Anyone familiar with the movie version will know it’s a story about a swamp-dwelling, bile-green coloured ogre, who embarks on a life-changing adventure to reclaim the deed to his land. The unlikely hero is joined by a hairy grey sidekick, a talking donkey who cracks jokes and prattles non-stop.

From the moment Lindsay waddles on stage as an ogre, painfully reminiscent of a woman in the latter stages of pregnancy, he has you in the palm of his chubby green hand.

As Shrek, Lindsay, who has clocked up an array of theatre performances, from Guys and Dolls to Sucker Punch, flatulates, burps and plays the hero with aplomb.

And while one of the musical’s drawcards is the chance to see Holden, of Britain’s Got Talent fame, tread the boards, the standout performer of the show for me is Harman. His sometime camp portrayal of a dwarf Lord Farquaad willing to risk another’s life and limbs to pursue his own grand ambitions had me crying with laughter.

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Harman pouts, he prances, he wears blingy headwear and to see the ex-EastEnders actor work his artificial little legs in a challenging range of dance and action routines, on constantly bended knees, is a thing of comic beauty.

Harman’s laugh, reminiscent of Dr Evil’s cackle in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, is equally infectious.

Holden is obviously flourishing, too, in her role as unpampered Princess Fiona, whiling away time in a dragon-guarded tower while awaiting her rescuer.

After he arrives, the audience at the magnificent Theatre Royal is treated to a superb spectacle, as Dragon, featuring the impressive voice of Landi Oshinowo, skilfully weaves across the stage chasing the hapless Shrek, courtesy of agile hyper-coordinated puppeteers. Dragon reappears in the second act, swooping above the audience to the delight of theatre-goers.

There are, too, pantomime moments such as when Princess Fiona sings near a bird tweeting in a nest. Those familiar with the movie know what is going to happen next. You want to yell out: “She’s beside you” as the smiling, singing Princess inches menacingly closer before her high-pitch trills cause the creature to explode.

When she isn’t bursting birds Holden indulges in explosions of another kind, as she and Lindsay have a hilarious flatulence competition.

There is humour in the musical aimed at adults as well as children, as in the movie. At a time of ongoing financial doom and gloom, this show is good fun and the perfect pick-me-up. If laughter is the best medicine, I think most of the audience will have left feeling they’ve had the perfect tonic.