I know Shrek is one of those shows that is looked down upon by not only regular theatre goers but also by people working in the industry. And I admit I most likely wouldn’t have watched it at all if there hadn’t been performer in the cast I wanted to see.
The show is designed to appeal to kids, that’s for sure. It has its rather cringy moments and it doesn’t play in the same league as shows like Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera.
BUT there was never a better time to give this show a try and actually have a fantastic evening than now. Why you may ask. Well, it’s quite simple: Shrek has never had better leads than at this very moment.
There’s Dean Chisnall as Shrek who is a true triple treat. He has a brilliant voice, he is able to act the part despite being stuck in a ridiculously heavy costume and he has proper stage presence. Shrek is such a hard part to play. Imagine having to display everything from joy to anger and sadness while being hidden behind a green mask. Dean manages to do just that. His Shrek shows emotions and no matter how tough it is on some days (hot weather is a killer when you’re wearing a fat suit on stage) he always gives his all. I’ve seen lots of performers who love their job but I can honestly say that Dean is the most dedicated performer I have ever met.
Carley Stenson has taken over as Princess Fiona and she is a pure joy to watch. I was never a fan of Amanda Holden’s and Kimberly Walsh’s Fiona. I just didn’t find them suited for the part. Carley’s Fiona is funny and sweet and it’s brilliant to finally see someone in the part who has a fabulous voice (I do love Alice Fearn’s Fiona by the way and couldn’t choose between her and Carley when it comes to naming my favourite).
Neil McDermott has developed so much as Lord Farquaad. I remember not being convinced by his portrayal the first few times I saw him. But he has definitely made the part his own by now. Nigel Harman was a tough act to follow but Neil has found “his” Farquaad. He’s hilarious to watch and it certainly looks like he is having the best time on stage.
Now, I had only ever seen Richard Blackwood as Donkey and although I have gotten used to his Donkey with time he was always the weak link in the cast for me. This time I was lucky enough to catch Aaron Lee Lambert in the part. And this is what made the show that day extremely special. Aaron’s Donkey is probably the campest thing I’ve ever seen on stage (and I’ve seen Priscilla!). I loved it! He made Donkey so extremely likable and he delivered the humour perfectly. And to top it all the guy can sing!! “Who I’d be” is my favourite song in the show and it’s even better to hear it sung by three amazing singers.
In my opinion the ensemble has always been the fifth lead in this show. Those guys and girls do an incredible job and work extremely well together. Even when facing a cut show on a boiling hot day (which was the case on this occasion with only two pigs instead of three up until the finale) they deliver a flawless performance. Special mention for Joseph Prouse who is brilliant as the Pied Piper and in his ensemble parts. He always manages to distract me from everything else that is going on on stage – and yes, that is a good thing!
Shrek will never please everyone and it will always have its flaws but this show has definitely grown on me over the past months. And with an amazing Shrek, a hilarious Farquaad and a Fiona that can sing and act the part I recommend you give this show a chance even if you think this is nothing for you. If you don’t try you’ll never know what you’re missing!
Shrek is playing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. For more info and to book tickets go here.
Watch out for my interview with Dean Chisnall which is coming up soon (depending on time) together with the chance to win a Shrek related price.