This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub
Book and Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire
Director: Nigel Harman
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Back on a UK Tour is a musical adaption of Dreamworks animation Shrek. A firm family favourite that is almost certain to draw a packed theatre and that is certainly true for press night at the Regent Theatre. With clever puppetry and funny characters, there is much to like about this production but there are areas that could develop to make it stand out.
Nigel Harman directs the latest tour. He premiered the role of Lord Farquaad in London and it’s, therefore, no surprise that some of the more polished areas of the production are when Samuel Holmes graces the stage as the spoilt Lord who’d like everything given to him on a plate. Holmes pounces around with grace and campness with a hint of a sinister nature. He’s likeable, while also being loath worthy.
Like productions before it, there are many Easter eggs for different musicals. From the Defying Gravity hint in the ending of What’s Up Duloc to the Les Miserables inspired flag in Freak Flag and The Lion King giraffe necks in the Travel Song. These light moments are perhaps not for everyone to understand but do appeal to a number of people in the audience. A lot of comedy seems to also be tailored for different areas of the audience, rather than for everyone; from the child-friendly belching and passing wind to the witty and sometimes crude script by David Lindsay-Abaire.
Marcus Ayton plays the lovable talking Donkey. He moves across the stage with enthusiasm and a slight resemblance to the voice made famous by Eddie Murphy in the film that the production is based on. Amelia Lily plays Princess Fiona. A tomboy princess who wants a future with a dashing prince. It was slightly disappointing to see her main song I Know It’s Today focus more on the puppets she supposedly created to pass the time than her desperation to meet her prince. Steffan Harri plays Shrek, a very lovable rogue. Harri does well in developing the character from an Ogre on a mission to save his swamp, to an Ogre realising that perhaps everyone can take charge of their own story and have their happily ever after.
One of the strongest elements of the production is the puppetry by Tim Hatley. From the well- handled large-scale dragon to the adorable Gingy. The Dragon is voiced by Lucinda Shaw and the Gingy is operated and played by Jemma Revell. The puppetry brings the characters alive from screen to the stage. The projection by Duncan Mclead also adds an extra layer to the rather simplistic set; particularly around Princess Fiona’s transformation which is beautifully elegant.
Fans of the film will not leave disappointed with this production. With the original charm of the film mixed with some clever theatrical techniques, this is a musical with a lot going for it and is certainly fun. However, it could go further to make it the powerful and slick swampy fairytale it could be.
Runs until 17th March 2018