It’s big, it’s bold, a real monster of a show – and it’s heading to Sunderland.
The Empire stage will be drenched in colour when Shrek The Musical hits the city for the first time next month.
The show’s now in its second year touring the country and it’s been winning rave reviews for bringing new life to charismatic cartoon characters, such as Shrek, Princess Fiona, the irrepressible Donkey and the delightfully obnoxious Lord Farquaad.
And fans of the DreamWorks film which spawned the West End musical needn’t worry – it’s a faithful recreation of the film, with a bit more back story thrown in for good measure.
“It’s very much the DreamWorks movie, with elements of Shrek 2,” explained Jenny Raith, stage manager. “Unlike some musicals, it’s a show which has something for everyone, whether you’re nine or 90. And it draws peals of laughter every night to prove it.
“It is a real family show,” said Jenny. “It’s got lots of humour for adults, which totally goes over kids’ heads, but they love that the show really captures the characters they love from the screen.
“Seeing the children’s faces when the characters come on stage is priceless, you get a really nice buzz from them. In fact, I don’t think we’ve ever had a negative audience.”
Looming large in the piece is the central character of Shrek, a lovable, bumbling, swamp-dwelling, flatulent ogre. You can’t help but root for this most unlikely of heroes as he pursues Princess Fiona.
Stepping into the giant shoes of Shrek is Dean Chisnall, who has to come into work two hours before everyone else for his Hulk-like transformation. The actor is used to wearing more make up than you can shake a stick at though. He set out on the tour after playing the role in the West End.
At his side is Bronté Barbé as spirited damsel in distress Princess Fiona, who has joined continuing cast members Idriss Kargbo as Shrek’s wisecracking sidekick Donkey and Gerard Carey as pint-sized villain Lord Farquaad.
Lord Farquaad, in particular, is a delight to watch – one of the best baddies on the touring circuit. What he lacks in height, he makes up for in camp-as-Christmas character as he spits out his deliciously dark lines with gusto.
The central characters are joined by a host of classic fairy-tale heroes who look like they’ve leaped straight from your imagination in full technicolour glory.
They may poke fun at the Once Upon Time genre, but they lovingly embrace it too.
Special mention must also go to the set. This is a big budget production and it shows, from the soaring towers of Farquaad’s castle to the pongy depths of the swamp.
It’s all wrapped up in a big bow to appeal to everyone, from little kids to big kids at heart.
•Shrek The Musical is at Sunderland Empire from November 11-22. Tickets are available in person at the Box Office, from Tel. 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.