REVIEW: Shrek The Musical, Sunderland Empire, Until November 22

Shrek (Dean Chisnall) and Princess Fiona (Bronte Barbe).

Shrek (Dean Chisnall) and Princess Fiona (Bronte Barbe).

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What a Shrek-tacular musical show!

The 2001 animated Dreamworks flick burst to life on stage at the Sunderland Empire last night.

The musical is infectiously fun and toe-tappingly brilliant.

It gives us a bit more of a back story to ogre Shrek (Jake Small) and Princess Fiona (Bronté Barbé) than the film does.

Opening number Big Bright Beautiful World tells the audience of the sad childhoods of the two beloved characters. At the ages of seven, one is sent off by his parents to live on his own, and the other is sent to the highest room of the tallest tower in a dragon-guarded, lava-surrounded castle – not your typical upbringing, but in the land of fairytales, anything can happen.

After his swamp is surrounded by fairytale creatures like Red Riding Hood (Laura Baldwin), Pinocchio (Will Haswell) and the Big Bad Wolf (James Lacey), Shrek sets out on a mission to get his land back.

On the way to confront pint-sized villain Lord Farquaad (Gerard Carey), he meets loud-mouthed Donkey (Idriss Kargbo) and ends up being sent by Farquaad to rescue Fiona as part of his elaborate scheme to become king.

The story, for most, will be a very familiar one. The film hits TV screens regularly, particularly at Christmas time, and in most households, is a firm family favourite.

Seeing the characters brought to life on stage is a real treat. Chisnall’s farting, roaring Shrek and Barbé’s singing, unconventionally-burping Fiona are larger-than-life and rib-ticklingly funny. Watching them fall in love over flatulence is hilarious and heart-warming.

Kargbo demonstrates boundless energy as Donkey and Carey gives an absolutely show-stealing performance as Farquaad.

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

On his knees in a clever costume, Carey looks absolutely hilarious. The crowd fell into fits of giggles as he scurried across the stage and took part in big dance numbers and gym workouts.

The fairytale characters in the show, which also include Gingy (Nikki Bentley), the Wicked Witch (Jennifer Caldwell) and the Three Pigs (Ryan Reid, Jake Small and Kevin Yates) were brilliant and added an extra layer to the show.

The cartoon-esque set was bright, colourful and ever-changing, completely transforming the stage. The costumes were also fantastic. The attention to detail was impeccable, right down to Pinocchio’s fib-revealing nose and the Big Bad Wolf’s penchant for cross-dressing.

Fiona’s lightning-quick transformations from beautiful princess to green ogre were hugely impressive, and made all the more magical by the spectacular lighting effects.

Treat yourself in the run up to Christmas and see this show – it’s a monster of a hit.

The show also boasts some amazing puppetry, from Gingy to the massive Dragon (voiced by Candace Furbert and controlled by a troupe of puppeteers).

Songs like Story of My Life, I Know It’s Today and When Words Fail came along with big performances. The songs are catchy and memorable.

Morning Person, which saw Fiona perform a tap-dance routine with rats, was brilliant and a real stand-out moment.

Freak Flag was also a fantastic moment in the show. We’ve all felt like we don’t fit in at some point, but this song, performed by the fairytale characters, is a real celebration of being different and it’s simply wonderful.

I’ve seen the show before, but enjoyed it so much more this time around. The references to other musicals, such as The Lion King, Les Mis and West Side Story, provide extra chuckles to what is already an all-round fantastic night of family fun.

Just like the film, Shrek The Musical has that double-wavelength style, with jokes that adults and kids will laugh at for different reasons.

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Treat yourself in the run up to Christmas and see this show – it’s a monster of a hit.

Shrek The Musical is at the Sunderland Empire until Sunday, November 22. Click here to book tickets.

Twitter: @vickinewmanjp

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

The scene in Shrek the Musical inspired by Les Miserables

The scene in Shrek the Musical inspired by Les Miserables

The vertically-challenged Lord Farquaad, played by Gerard Carey.

The vertically-challenged Lord Farquaad, played by Gerard Carey.

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Shrek the Musical UK Tour