REVIEW: Shrek The Musical at The Alexandra

Based on the story and characters from the Oscar-winning film, Shrek The Musical follows, Shrek and his trusty sidekick, Donkey as they set off on a quest to rescue the beautiful - if slightly temperamental - Princess Fiona.

This show is the opposite of many similar productions, where the film often follows the stage show. In this instance, the musical was very much developed to bring the screen to the stage and there's an amount of hesitancy as the lights go down. Will this be a line for line recreation of the film (it isn't) or will it pail into insignificance and only exist to milk the franchise (it doesn't)?

What this production is, is the single best version of this musical that's ever been staged. Period.

Shrek The Musical takes the essence of the movie and uses it as a catalyst to develop a strong theatrical performance that stands on its own two feet. Admittedly there were elements that weren’t afforded the same coverage, possibly from a technical perspective, as they were in the movie but I’m not convinced that harmed the flow of the story.

The set and lighting are superb. This isn't a show that takes itself too seriously and that works very much to its credit. With slick scene changes that allow characters to emerge in the blink of an eye, Shrek has a perfect fairytale-esque staging which works beautifully for the piece.

The score is catchy and relevant, having been written for the show and only leaving I’m A Believer as a nod to the original and a sure fire crowd pleaser after the bows.

However, one thing a show of this scale can't do without is its cast - and what a cast they are too. Antony Lawrence and Brandon Lee Sears have so much chemistry as Shrek and Donkey that there isn't a moment when you pine for Mike Myers or Eddie Murphy. Brandon in particular brings us a sassy, diva-ish donkey which is just close enough for an audience to relate, but far enough away from it's on-screen equivalent that it doesn't become a caricature of Murphy's performance - something that's incredibly important when you take on such recognisable parts.

Joanne Clifton excels as Princess Fiona, bringing the characters humour to the forefront. Again, she doesn’t attempt to mimic those before her but gives us a Fiona that no child in the audience would question was authentic. Clifton is inspired casting for the role; her comedic nature and natural personality traits lend themselves so well to the character that its hard to believe this is her first time in the green dress!

However, for me, James Gillan stole the show as the (not so pint-sized) Lord Farquaad. Gillan's sublime understanding of the role allowed him to create a hilariously camp panto-style villain that the audience lapped up. Being used far more as a comedy character than he is in the films, his portrayal of the token ‘bad guy’ had children and adults alike in fits of proper belly laughs.

It was also lovely to see the return of the Dragon to the show. Previous productions did away with large parts of that side of the story and, whilst it definitely wasn't as prominent as in the film, it was a joy to see her back on stage. 

I defy anybody to walk out of this production without an ogre-sized cheesy grin from ear to ear. Shrek is at times funny, at other times poignant - but at ALL times loveable and all consuming.

Shrek The Musical is at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre until Sunday 14th April. For more information visit

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