Review: More parfait than onion, ‘Shrek the Musical’ is stacked with colourful, sugar-sweet layers

Review: More parfait than onion, ‘Shrek the Musical’ is stacked with colourful, sugar-sweet layers

Photo by Brian Geach
Words by Kate Streader


They say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but nobody ever said you can’t swaddle it in green prosthetics and turn it into a musical.

Bringing Duloc’s world of fairytale creatures to the stage, Shrek The Musical has earned acclaim across the world, but how does the adaptation stack up to the DreamWorks classic? Melburnians flocked to Her Majesty’s Theatre for the production’s opening night to find out.

Literally leaping from the pages of a storybook onto the stage, it was clear from the opening moments that set design wouldn’t be this production’s downfall.

Laying the foundations with an origin story, the stage adaptation added a little more heart to an already warm-and-fuzzy affair. These roots would later tie into the narrative so seamlessly, you had to wonder why the film didn’t bother with such a storyline.

Nailing Mike Myer’s thick Scottish accent, Shrek The Musical clearly found the perfect lead in Ben Mingay. Though while Mingay and Nat Jobe’s (Donkey) portrayals of their characters were meticulously faithful to the film, their characterisation bordered on regurgitating carbon copies of their on-screen counterparts at times.

Todd McKenney’s Lord Farquaad, on the other hand, stole each scene he waddled into – the slapstick value of his comically false legs earning laughs at every opportunity. Having traipsed every inch of the stage on his knees throughout the evening to achieve his character’s height – or lack thereof – the eruption of applause he was met with at the show’s end was well due.

The costuming continued to impress with the reveal of Dragon, which proved the production had spared no expense in executing a visual fantasy. Seriously, how much did they spend on that dragon? Steered by a troupe of unitard-clad puppeteers, the towering, purple beast glided across the stage as if it were water.

Between Donkey’s voluptuous padding, Lord Farquaad’s red, sequinned boots (and the choreography they inspired) and the veritable suggestive asides, one could only wonder if the show was intended to be so sexually-tinged. At least the endless stream of innuendo was certain to fly over the heads of any present children.

While the production wasn’t here to re-write the tale at hand, it did employ its own embellishments where it saw fit. It was these few surprise deviations from the original plot in which Shrek The Musical really shone.

Toeing the line between cynical and starry-eyed, the adaptation offered an anti-fairytale that still felt like it was straight out of a storybook. And while it may look like a love story at face value, the underlying message of embracing one’s inner freak was the true heart of this tale.

So sweet it could warrant a trip to the dentist, Shrek The Musical will melt even the iciest of hearts.

See Shrek The Musical at Her Majesty’s Theatre until Sunday April 12. Book your tickets here