Cast’s infectious enthusiasm elevates ‘Shrek The Musical’

Cast’s infectious enthusiasm elevates ‘Shrek The Musical’

SHOW: SHREK THE MUSICAL
CAST: LYLE BUXTON, JESSICA SOLE, RORY BOOTH, JACOBUS VAN HEERDEN, GRAEME WICKS AND ENSEMBLE
DIRECTOR: STEVEN STEAD
MUSICAL DIRECTION: ROWAN BAKKER
SET DESIGN: GREG KING
CHOREOGRAPHY: JANINE BENNEWITH
COSTUME DESIGN: TIM HATLEY
VENUE: THE LYRIC THEATRE, GOLD REEF CITY UNTIL JULY 17
REVIEWER: PETER FELDMAN

‘Shrek’ is one of the most beloved characters in the Dreamworks stable and to bring him vividly to life on the stage in Johannesburg is one momentous operation.
Director Steven Stead, whose Durban-based company KicksArt Theatre has staged some compelling theatrical productions over the years, is the man behind the mounting of this bright and breezy enterprise, which is crammed full of visual and musical delights.
The whole family will enjoy the colourful adventure that Shrek (Lyle Buxton), the mean, green ogre from the swamp, undertakes in his bid to rid “his place” of the fairy tale folk who have settled there and to claim back what is rightfully his.

Nasty, pint-sized Lord Farqaad (Jacobus van Heerden) owns the land and in order for Shrek to reclaim it he has to find Princess Fiona (Jessica Sole), locked in a castle, and bring her back to the kingdom so that Lord Farqaad can marry her. Along for the ride is the motor-mouth donkey, so brilliantly voiced in the film version by Eddie Murphy, but played here with loads of zesty enthusiasm by Rory Booth, who needs to keep the irrepressible Shrek on the straight and narrow.

Based on the hugely successful animated film, (with book by William Steig) and the Broadway musical, the story’s trajectory is faithfully reproduced here and punctuated with fun and quirky comedy moments and oodles of appealing, upbeat music to keep the feet tapping. Special numbers were written for the stage show, which help flesh out the characters.

Stead has embellished the production with delightfully funny touches. There are fluffy woodland creatures that pop up from time to time and have their say, while the array of engaging fairy-tale folk have their place too, and these range from the talkative and delusional Pinocchio (Graeme Wicks) to a cross-dressing Big Bad Wolf (Luciano Zuppa); and from a wildly animated gingerbread man to Peter Pan, the Fairy Godmother and the Three Pigs. And there is even a larger-than-life dragon strutting its stuff on stage

The key members of the cast all shine in their respective roles. Lyle Buxton’s Shrek is a commanding figure who finds a nice balance between sadness and joy during his eventful journey, and the actor does a remarkable job considering he is wrapped in a suffocating green mask and costume. Rory Booth’s Donkey is a hoot throughout, and I also adored Jessica Sole’s Fiona, who is both sexy and funny.

On the musical side, each of the solo performers excel and stand-out tracks include ‘Who’d I Be’ featuring Shrek, Fiona and Donkey; Fiona’s ‘Morning Person’; and Shrek’s ‘When Words Fail’.
Greg King’s bright, cartoonish set adds to the comic-book feel of the production, while Shanti Naidoo’s costume creations are colourfully eye-catching.
The dance routines are engaging and there is a lovely moment with a group of tap dancing mice.

Tucked into the fabric of the story are a few of life’s messages and, as the large ensemble go about their work, their infectious enthusiasm seems to bubble out and engulf the audience.
In this era of doom and gloom, the bubbly Shrek and his lively team are a breath of fresh air blowing through our theatrical environment.
It should prove a hot ticket during these school holidays.

* For bookings, visit http://online.computicket.com/web/event/shrek_the_musical/1019313358.