SHREK the Musical
Tue 15 to Sat 19 November 2022
Palace Theatre, Redditch
Director – James Baldwin
Musical Director – Joe George
Choreographer – Paula Lacey
|Rhiannon Lee Street
|Captain of the Guard
|Paul 'Mitch' Mitchell
|Big Bad Wolf
|Blind Mouse 1
|Blind Mouse 2
|Blind Mouse 3
|Rhiannon Lee Street
|Blind Mouse 3 (Thu)
|Ana and Dimitri Zacharia
|Daisy-May Sandel and Evie Pavlovs
|William Chalk and Ruby Khawaja
|Amelia Barratt and Nancy Parker Griffin
Songs, Swamps and Laughs
With a script more multi-layered than an ogre, toe-tapping songs and laughs aplenty, anyone thinking of seeing the Redditch Operatic Society’s heartwarming production of Shrek the Musical will all leave saying the same thing – ‘I’m a believer’.
This musical retelling of the classic 2001 film sees Shrek (Paul Mitchell) trying to reclaim his swamp from Lord Farquaad (Matt Bridgewater) by rescuing the imprisoned Princess Fiona (Sophie Hill) from a dragon-guarded tower.
Mitchell shines in the title role, striking a balance between Shrek’s cranky, closed-off nature and the upbeat, humorous tone needed in a production like this.
It’s a testament to how well Mitchell deals with Shrek’s complexities that his big heartfelt moments felt earned and deeply emotionally satisfying.
The same can be said for Hill’s performance as Fiona, who captures her character’s wide-eyed naivety while also grappling with her ongoing demons.
This is perfectly displayed in I Think I Got You Beat, a duet with Mitchell’s Shrek in which the pair bond through discussing their troubled pasts while also displaying the two actors’ excellent singing ability and chemistry.
The musical’s original songs complement the story beautifully while also being enjoyable to listen to, and every actor tasked with singing did a commendable job.
One highlight was a moving performance of I Know it’s Today, in which we get a look at Fiona’s lifelong dreams through the eyes of the child and teenage versions of her (played exceptionally by Daisy-May Sandel and Millie Stanway.)
Ryan Allen-Rose brings child-like mischief and Eddie Murphy-esque confidence to Donkey, along with perfect comedic timing, and I really appreciated how the production dedicates entire scenes to fleshing out his relationship with Shrek.
The task of convincingly selling the bravado of the ridiculous yet villainous Lord Farquaad would be a daunting task to most actors, so I must congratulate Matt Bridgewater on delivering one of the funniest and most brilliant stage performances I’ve ever seen.
His fierce commitment to the characters’ over-the-top narcissism was complimented by Bridgewater’s tendency to add genius quirks to his performance, such as Farquaad’s hilariously high-pitched attempt at a maniacal laugh.
This was gloriously exhibited when Farquaad proposes to a dumbfounded Fiona in a scene so side-splitting some audience members were still struggling to hold back their laughter five minutes later.
The production isn’t afraid to get utterly ridiculous in its humour and the show is all the richer for it.
Kirstie Boyden masterfully executes a heartwarming character arc as Pinocchio in limited stage time, while Hannah Fennell’s sharp comedic performance as Gingy had me in stitches.
And a special mention for Lucy Traves as Dragon, who effortlessly switches from terrifying killer to vulnerable and love-struck during her scenes with Donkey.
Shrek the Musical brings the ‘perfect place’ of Duloc to Redditch’s Palace Theatre stage by delivering an equally impeccable production, and you can catch it at 7.30pm every night until Saturday, November 19 with a 2.30pm performance on the final day.
Ryan Smith, writing for the Redditch Standard
A Joyous trip to Duloc
Always a joyous trip to Duloc (is that an anagram of Cloud, I’ve often wondered?) isn’t it and if you’d like to journey to that mythical land of ogres, donkeys and fairytale characters then you can do so by joining Redditch Operatic Society at the Palace Theatre for their production of Shrek the Musical.
You will of course have to deal with he who is short on stature and large on ego in the form of Matt Bridgewater’s characterful portrayal of Lord Farquaad, full of an evil cackle (although perhaps a little more like a giggle) and a deluded belief that any princess might want to marry him.
There is a princess of course, Fiona by name, beauty by day, cursed ogre by night, played with abandon and in the words of Patsy Cline a little ‘crazy’ in many ways but, with a vocal to ‘charm the savage beast’ by Sophie Hill. Locked in a tower and guarded by a Dragon, very much a cameo role but, I have to confess with an amazing song to sing and does Lucy Traves sing it well, you can bet your fire breathing adversary of St George she does, if you don’t remember it Forever you weren’t listening properly.
Worry ye not viewers, the princess will of course be rescued by our hero, he’s green, he’s less than pretty and prone to regular escapes of wind from various bodily orifices, he is of course Shrek, ogre of this parish and played with just the right mix of outlandishness and charm by Paul Mitchell, with a vocal that frankly should be gracing a West End Stage, his range and capability made only too obvious by his renditions of Big Bright Beautiful World and When Words Fail.
Every hero needs a ‘noble steed’, a sturdy, well turned-out, aristocratic horse you might think, you’d be wrong as we are talking a rather emotional and eccentric donkey but, played with energy, enthusiasm, pathos and with another stunning vocal by Ryan Allen-Rose.
Having been evicted from Duloc and not welcome in Shrek’s Swamp we have a group of fairytale characters relating the stories of their lives and ultimately letting their freak flag fly led by Kirstie Boyden’s feisty Pinocchio (he’s a real boy you know) and Hannah Fennell’s highly and exquisitely vocal Gingy, alongside an array of fine characters and voices, Beth Garden (Mama Bear) and Elle Cross (Ugly Duckling) to name just two.
There are too many highlights to name them all but, it would be remiss of me not to mention the I Know It’s Today number which is a joy with Sophie Hill, Millie Stanway (Teen Fiona) and Daisy-May Sandel (Young Fiona at this performance).
This is a production of real enjoyment (if you don’t leave feeling happy you must have forgotten to go into the auditorium and stayed in the bar) which is much to the credit of James Baldwin (Director), Paula Lacey (Choreographer) and Joe George (Musical Director).
So, if you want to let your ‘Freak Flag Fly’ I suggest you see if you can find a ticket although I hear they are a rare as dragon’s teeth so you might need to hope for a return
Tim Hodge, Musical Geek
Full of Warmth and Humour
This was my first visit to Redditch Operatic Society (ROS for short), and what a warm welcome awaited! It was a pleasure to meet President Bob Taylor and Chairman Tony Jay, who explained that this was the group’s first foray onto the stage since the Covid interregnum. And what a delightful return it was, as they brought us a production of Shrek, the Musical that was full of warmth and humour.
Shrek, of course, is the tale of a not-so-gentle green giant, sent out into the world at age seven to live alone in his swamp, who comes to the (reluctant) aid of a group of displaced fairy tale characters and, with the help of his Donkey sidekick, vanquishes the dastardly Lord Farquaad. Along the way, he finds love with Princess Fiona – with whom he shares his childhood trauma and who, it turns out, is not quite what she seems.
As the titular ogre, Paul Mitchell was a confident presence, clearly showing Shrek’s journey from grumpy loner to romantic(ish) hero. Alongside him, Sophie Hill was excellent value as Princess Fiona, initially rather stern and then melting as the romance between her and Shrek blossomed. The character’s uncertainty around revealing her true self was particularly well conveyed. Completing the lead trio, Ryan Allen-Rose was a very funny Donkey, inhabiting the role with good movement and characterisation. All three of them had strong singing voices, which were put to good use in belting out the songs of the show.
Matt Bridgewater was suitably sneery as the nasty Lord Farquaad – a particularly difficult role for any actor, given that he spends most of his time on his knees! Well done also to Lucy Traves, who effectively portrayed the Dragon as not just a fire-breathing menace but also another lost soul. Finally amongst the principals, Hannah Fennell and Kirstie Boyden energetically led the fairy tale characters as Gingy and Pinocchio respectively.
Supporting them was a large and hard-working ensemble of 43 performers, playing a variety of villagers, guards, and fairy tale characters. They all played their part in bringing the show to life. I particularly liked the little gang of Palace guards, who had several nice routines and demonstrated how those in smaller roles can really lift a performance. I also liked Russell Hay’s Big Bad Wolf – a creature in touch with his feminine side! Finally, a special mention for young performers Ruby Khawaja, Nancy Parker-Griffin and Evie Pavlovs, who made the most of their opportunities as Young Shrek, Baby Bear and Young Fiona.
Director James Baldwin did a good job of keeping the show moving, and Paula Lacey added some nice choreography, particularly in Morning Person, as six tap dancing rats joined in. Maybe a little bit more movement could have been introduced at other times, as the show got perhaps a little bit static and ‘concert’ like from time to time. However, there were a lot of people on stage a lot of the time, and the team did a good job of ensuring that the limelight was fairly shared.
In staging the show, ROS made use of the depth of the Palace Theatre stage by utilising several layers of backdrops. This generally worked well, although it did mean that the ensemble were a little bit cramped for space at the beginning of the show. The scenery itself was of a good standard, and I liked the use of a gauze screen to enable us to see inside the little house in which Donkey discovers Princess Fiona’s secret. Good work by the lighting team here to get that effect. There were a few technical issues with the staging on the night that I attended, but these did not detract from the show and the cast coped well – even adding in the odd ad-lib as a bridge proved a little harder to get over than usual!
Shrek is a show that provides a challenge for any costume department, with so many fairy tale characters to deck out, in such a way that they are instantly recognisable. Not to mention the guards, villagers and, of course the principals. I’m happy to say that the wardrobe team at ROS rose to the challenge admirably.
Congratulations, then, to everyone at ROS for a very commendable performance – the packed audience lapped it up, and rightly so. As the first notes of closing number I’m a Believer rang out, we needed little encouragement to get to our feet and clap along to the feel-good closer of a feel-good show! Well done all, and I look forward to seeing you in 2023 for Evita.
Chris Davies, NODA Representative, West Midlands District 5
Some Audience Comments
What a tonic. Funny brilliant what an advert for live theatre. As usual standout performances from all.
Fantastic performance this evening by all. Congratulations and best wishes for the rest of your run.
Well done to all the cast and crew for a brilliant performance of Shrek, you absolutely smashed it, well worth going to see if you can get tickets.
Emma Parker Griffin
Well done every single one of you who made an excellent performance, it was incredible!
After a three-year absence due to the pandemic lockdowns, we returned to the Palace Theatre in our usual November ‘slot’ with a little trepidation – Shrek the Musical was going to be a very expensive show to stage, and we could only guess what percentage of tickets we would sell. Would audiences be ready to flock back to see live theatre, or would many still be put off venturing out into closely-packed theatre auditoriums?
Thankfully, any worries we may have had were rapidly set aside when we saw how quickly the tickets were selling. In fact, the Saturday Matinee was completely sold out from about two months before show week. And, in the end, we had a 100% sell-out for our six-performance run… something we could never have dreamed would be possible.
The show itself featured fifty of our members on stage, carefully split between principals, fairy tale creatures and many other characters that make up the crazy world of Duloc.
James Baldwin returned to direct the show, after his initial success with 2019’s CATS. And the production team was once again blessed to have Paula Lacey as choreographer and Joe George as musical director on board. The costumes, so vital and specific to this particular show, were magnificently managed by costume mistress Jean Chalk once again, and our make-up team of Natalija, Beth and Sophie did some sterling work in creating the various ogres and creatures.
The company had a blast during show week. Shrek the Musical is such a funny, irreverent show with some great musical numbers. It’s a real audience pleaser, and feedback received was duly enthusiastic.
Our return to the theatre really was a special week to remember for us all.
Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Based on the DreamWorks Animation motion picture and the book by William Steig.
Originally produced on Broadway by DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Productions.
Original production directed by Jason Moore and Rob Ashford.
An amateur production presented by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe)
‘I’m A Believer’ by Neil Diamond