AD – This is part of a press review for Royal & Derngate
I waited all my life… to watch a fully staged production of Shrek the Musical!
And on Wednesday 27th October, that dream came true!
This production was performed by local theatre company, Northampton Musical Theatre Company at Royal & Derngate who are well known for being one of the oldest surviving amateur companies in the country and have been entertaining audiences for over 100 years.
After a hiatus last year due to the dreaded C word, this was their first performance since 2019 and they have come back with a modern broadway showstopper that’s heaps of fun for all the family!
The musical is based on the Dreamworks film, Shrek, which tells the story of Shrek, an Ogre who lives happily on his own in a swap – until his life is interrupted by a load of fairy tale creatures who are evictees of the city of Duloc, banished by Lord Farguaad who sets him on a journey to rescue Princess Fiona from the tallest tower… if you’ve watched the film, you know the rest…
Try not to base it too much on the film though; as much as the story is still familiar to the film, the musical is a whole different kettle of fish that will leave you feeling entertained.
First impression, once the curtain opened, was how amazing the sets were, which are made by Scenic Projects Ltd – it’s on West End level for me in terms of aesthetic and just how many set changes there were – particularly loved Princess Fiona’s tower!
Costumes were also equally as impressive; so many bright colours and costumes to make you go “wow!”. These were supplied by Molly Limpet’s Theatrical who managed to ensure the costumes of the main characters were in tune with what we know and recognise from the film.
As the first act rolled around, overall; this is a strong ensemble cast who are well-tuned and oiled. They know what they’re doing and everyone is alert and engaged as a supporting ensemble to bring the stage to life.
One thing I will say as perhaps constructive criticism is that the first act felt quite sleepy overall – especially the transitions from one scene to the next which had quite a lot of pause in-between.
I found out afterward that the company did a matinee show earlier on in the afternoon and I wondered whether this was why – both my friend and I agreed it was lacking in energy for us as we sat in the interval hoping the energy would pick up.
However, the second act improved and was FAR better and we felt the energy lift on stage. I’m unsure what it was, but this was just something we sensed and we both came away saying how much better it got.
But this isn’t a discredit to the actors on stage because there were some very notable performances.
The man of the night for me was, of course, the leading character Shrek, who was played by Ian Hammond-Stark – you couldn’t have picked a better actor to step into the shoes of this iconic character!
The comedic timing was spot on, his voice has a lush baritone depth to it and his shining moment came when he projected the big, long belt in the number “Build A Wall”.
Donkey was played by Luke White, who carried the show with his cartoon-like charisma on stage and you can see the actor just LOVES playing this role – I would too!
Whilst I couldn’t understand some of the words he was singing in some of his song numbers (and that’s coming from someone who listens to the soundtrack on the daily) he was a great addition to this cast. Princess Fiona was played by Ashleigh Standage, who was a vision in emerald green on stage and she had a lovely, soft singing voice – I really enjoyed the trio number “I Know It’s Today” with the young and teen Fionas.
I also found Ashleigh and Ian’s character chemistry on stage endearing – they’ve been cast very well together!
Another highlight for me was Ama Scuotto who played Lord Farquaad who had me giggling the whole way through the show when he was present. How he’s managed to perform on his knees throughout the whole show to mimic his height is beyond me!
The cast for me was definitely stronger together in big numbers for me; numbers including “Freak Flag” were outstanding – I love how upbeat the song is and they nailed it – I was also very distracted looking at every single actor on stage and figuring out who was playing who!
I was also praying that there would be a tap dance in “Morning Person” and they didn’t disappoint – it was fabulous!
Jay Upton was vocally the best female singer on the night for me; what amazing pipes! Another star who shone on stage for me was Sam Dolby as Ugly Duckling with her facial expressions and equally as good of a singing voice.
I must not forget the Happy People chorus too who were brilliant in sync with each other – big shout out to my college friend, Rebecca Fisher, who I noticed straight away – she’s always been a great actor with great reactions!
I’m not sure who I need to credit here but the little girl in the blue team which according to the programme, was the children’s team performing on Wednesday night, made my friend and I smile so much! What a little star she is – she was loving life being the smallest of the cast dancing away to all the songs!
Overall, this is certainly an uplifting show that is great for families with small children to enjoy during the half term and it’s clear the company have a lot of fun on stage together, especially after it being so long since they last performed together.
You’ll laugh, you’ll reminisce over the characters and iconic one-liners (onions have layers, ogres have layers etc) and it’s only in Northampton for more shows – whilst you’re there, why not enjoy some Fairytale Candy Floss and Swamp Slush!