Theatre review: Shrek the Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre

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Irreverent, rude and filled with in-jokes, that was how Shrek became a multi-million pound success.

Fans of the films will recognise all of those traits in the touring production of Shrek the Musical that came to Milton Keynes this week.

There were fart jokes for the kids, double entendres for the grans and wink-wink humour galore.

A variation of the silver screen script, it sees the grumpy green ogre (Dean Chisnall) leave the fairy tale characters at his swamp and set off to rescue Princess Fiona (Bronte Barbe) on behalf of Lord Farquaad.

And the packed-out auditorium, filled with a satisfying number of boys and girls, roared with laughter, letting us know that the humour had hit its mark.

Value for money-wise, both hour-plus acts were packed from end to end with more than 20 songs that pushed the script breathlessly on.

For some of the adults, the night may have passed slightly slowly, it’s true. The trademark jokes, although recognisable from the much-loved films, were a little too few and far between with much of the dialogue feeling like a functional bridge to the next tune.

Presumably it is less effort to write a handful of funny gags than a whole song about what a nice morning it is, so it would probably have been easier, and more appreciated, if the series tunes were broken up in longer stretches of adept comedy. While very catchy at their best, the songs were of variable quality overall.

However, the best scenes were great fun and some were genuinely impressive.

The dragon’s meeting with Donkey (Ryan Reid) in the Princess’s tower displayed not only the best singing voice of the night (the appropriately huge, turbo-powered soul of Candace Furbert) but some really skilled puppetry, which somehow made the giant body seem lighter than air. Having the puppeteers in sight, like the Lion King, added a new dimension as the audience saw how their movement translated to the dragon’s.

The best-received scenes were unquestionably by Lord Farquaad (super-camp Gerard Carey), however.

A simple but effective trick of making him comically short by putting false legs on a kneeling man had everyone doubled over with every diminutive strut across the stage. The dance numbers took full advantage and high kicks and splits, were met with undiminished laughter every time.

With more of the same, I feel the adults would have taken more from the production. However that’s not why we were there and the show undoubtedly delighted the younger members of the audience, which was the point.

Any show that gets young people watching live theatre has to be commended and, as long as you don’t expect a straight lift from the movies, this is certainly a safe bet to get them hooked before the holidays end.

Shrek The Musical can be seen at Milton Keynes Theatre until Sunday September 6. To book tickets call the box office on 0844 871 7652 or visit www.atgtickets.co.uk/miltonkeynes