‘Shrek: The Musical’ was layered.
Ever since ‘Shrek’ burst through his toilet door in 2001, audiences have idolised this animation classic. The film revived fractured fairytales in a zany manner, highlighting the power of pop culture, while also managing to create a powerful underlying message of acceptance. All of this is captured by Brisbane Arts Theatre in their latest production, ‘Shrek: The Musical’.
Shrek is an ogre. Isolated in his swamp, scaring off villagers. Life is well. Until unwanted fairytale creatures are banished to his swamp for being freaks. In a moment of annoyance, Shrek makes a plan with a motormouth donkey to confront Lord Farquaad and get his swamp back. This leads to a quest set by the Lord for both Shrek and Donkey to rescue a beautiful princess. Once they do, Shrek and Princess Fiona start to fall for one another, but Fiona is hiding a dark secret, that can only be removed by true love’s first kiss.
The directing team for this musical had a mammoth task. With a double (and sometimes triple) casting of roles, this production could’ve felt rushed. Yet, with many quirky gags, creative use of staging, silhouettes and clever blocking, the team forged a production that the audience thoroughly enjoyed.
Choreography by Michelle Radu & Steph O’Shea enhanced this fairytale. The unique use of the dancers throughout the show gave audiences a visual treat. This was highlighted with the touching ballerina dance during ‘When Words Fail’. Musical Direction by Emma Howitt complimented each singer’s vocal abilities and range.
Costuming by Chantelle Norton created a lot of expression for the piece. The colourful and zany costumes magnified the story. Lighting Design by David Willis continually impressed, with spotlights, colours and flawless transitions keeping the production flowing seamlessly. Sound design by Zoe Power added much oddness to the tale, from the weird noise of Pinnochio’s nose growing to the many, many farts, Power’s sound added hilarity to the story.
The talented performers gave many layers to their characters – like an onion. Tim Buckney’s Shrek brought much hilarity to the iconic green monster. Stephanie Collins as Fiona brought a beautiful portrayal, with a lighthearted humility. Michelle Dagan’s Dragon fiercely commanded her scenes. Beau Bruback as Young Fiona brought a lovely innocence to the role, along with Amy Wiseman’s Teen Fiona.
While all the ensemble characters and dancers maintained good characterisation and comedic energy that helped give another layer, the two highlights were Douglas Berry as Farquaad and Natalie Mead as Donkey. Berry’s flamboyant portrayal of the little leader left audiences in stitches multiple times with his physical gags. While Mead’s energetic powerhouse show won over the audiences, in particular a young girl who was beyond thrilled to get a fistbump from her. A magnificent undertaking by Mead.
Many recent films have set out to spin fractured fairytales with a modernised twist, but none do so like Shrek. Though there were some minor technical hiccups, Brisbane Arts Theatre flatters the source material. This production is a perfect venture for the whole family.
Shrek: The Musical performs until Saturday, 3 September at Brisbane Arts Theatre. For more information visit the Arts Theatre website.