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Review: Shrek the Musical, Sunderland Empire

Laura Main as Princess Fiona and Steffan Harri as Shrek. Picture: Helen Maybanks.
Laura Main as Princess Fiona and Steffan Harri as Shrek. Picture: Helen Maybanks.

If you believe in fairytales then Sunderland Empire is definitely the place to be.

If you visit over the next week or so you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a magical creature from your favourite story - be it a talking puppet, a fairy godmother or a trio of back-talking little pigs.

Shrek the Musical roared back into the city's Empire Theatre this week, and promises audiences a lively, loud and laughable evening out.

Read more: Shrek to make monster return to Sunderland Empire

Based on the story and characters from William Steig’s book and the 2001 film, the musical follows lovable characters Shrek and "noble steed" Donkey as they head out on a quest to reclaim the ogre's swamp - and rescue a princess to boot.

Film fans have nothing to fear - all of your favourite one-liners from the Oscar-winning film are present and correct, with the added bonus of fantastically-choreographed musical numbers.

Marcus Ayton as Donkey. Picture: Helen Maybanks.

Marcus Ayton as Donkey. Picture: Helen Maybanks.

Ears peeled for the fan-favourite Duloc ditty, onions having layers and Gingy's gumdrop buttons (a personal favourite).

These are characters we all know and love (admit it, you adored this film as a kid) so I was keen to see how they translated to the stage.

Shrek (Steffan Harri) is as charmingly cantankerous as we remember, with Donkey (Marcus Ayton) as his wise-cracking, sassy sidekick. An audience favourite, Donkey gets some of the biggest laughs of the night, as the bromance between him and Shrek blossoms before our very eyes.

Laura Main's Fiona isn't your typical cookie-cutter princess. She's beautiful, sure, but she's got a crude edge which endears her to the children in the audience, and parents too!

Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad. Picture: Helen Maybanks.

Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad. Picture: Helen Maybanks.

Special mention must come here for my favourite Shrek character (movie and musical, alike) - Lord Farquaad.

Excellently played in Thursday night's production by William Hawksworth, Farquaad is the pint-sized villain we love to hate.

He oozes condescension from every pore - but comedically so. He gets under your skin - but you can't wait to see him come back on the stage and split your sides at the physical comedy.

It's the ultimate reward to see him get his comeuppance, as all good baddies deserve.

Steffan Harri as Shrek. Picture: Helen Maybanks.

Steffan Harri as Shrek. Picture: Helen Maybanks.

And of course, no good fairytale would have a happy ending without a supporting cast of lovable misfits.

Among those letting their freak flags wave were Little Red Riding Hood, the Pied Piper, and the Big Bad Wolf - and that lot can really bust a move!

Still unconvinced if Shrek is the show for you? My hands are still hurting from clapping - I'm definitely a believer!

*Shrek the Musical is at Sunderland Empire until February 11.

The ensemble cast. Picture: Helen Maybanks.

The ensemble cast. Picture: Helen Maybanks.