Thursday, 12 November 2015

Review: Shrek The Musical at Sunderland Empire

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Once Upon A Time...

Shrek The Musical
Sunderland Empire
Until Sunday 22nd November 2015

The hugely popular animated film has become an entertaining musical that will be a firm family favourite.

Photo: Helen Maybanks
The show begins with Shrek coming out of a huge book to describe his tragic upbringing. Thrown out of his family home at the age of 7. Villagers felt it appropriate to try to torch the poor ogre, so he set up a base in a squalid swamp. But at least it was his swamp and he could call it home.

Princess Fiona feels she didn’t have the ideal childhood either as she was sent to a castle keep. Guarded by a fiery dragon she was alone for many years. She waited, as the fairytales suggest, for a handsome prince to come along and rescue her.

Photo: Helen Maybanks
Shrek’s life goes from bad to worse when Lord Farquaad decrees that all of the storybook characters like the 3 little pigs and the big bad wolf must leave his Kingdom. They are despatched to Shrek’s swamp. This is an intolerable situation so he heads off to the kingdom, Duloc, in order to give Lord Farquaad a piece of his mind. He hopes to get his swamp back. Along the way he crosses the path of Donkey who immediately wants to be his friend.

Photo: Helen Maybanks
When they arrive, Farquaad has just been torturing the Gingerbread Man in order to find out where Princess Fiona is. He decides someone must go, fight the dragon, and return with his princess. Shrek agrees to get Fiona on the condition he gets his swamp back and so the adventures begin.

Photo: Helen Maybanks
Dean Chisnall is more than capable of filling Shrek’s huge shoes. The ogre may dislike the company of others but he is loveable and the youngsters laugh at the breaking wind jokes. His companion Donkey, played by Idriss Kargbo doesn’t seem to take the hint and they make a great couple.

The role of Fiona involves a number of high speed changes in appearance and Bronté Barbé tackles these well. She is backed up by Laura Baldwin as the teen Fiona and another cast member as the young Fiona. The trio were very quick at swapping positions during one number.

Photo: Helen Maybanks
The stealer of the show was Gerard Carey as Lord Farquaad who frequently had the audience laughing whenever he was on stage. His comic timing and great singing voice quickly endeared him to the audience.

Photo: Helen Maybanks
The dragon, too, was a brilliant display of puppetry as the giant creature swept across the Empire stage.  The ensemble had to play numerous roles and tackle the puppetry.  They were often entertaining and an intrinsic part of the comedy routines.

Photo: Helen Maybanks
Shrek the musical involves quite a large and highly talented live orchestra under the careful musical direction of Dave Rose. They were able to fill the auditorium with the music and did not put a foot wrong all night. This is no juke box musical and, with the exception of the final show closing number, the songs have been written for the show. Perhaps they are not the most memorable numbers on the first hearing but the do well to tell the story.

Photo: Helen Maybanks

Shrek was funny. I brought my 12 year old son along and he really enjoyed it and appreciated the humour. That said, just like the best of the children’s animation films, there were funny bits in for the parents too.

This year we don’t have to wait for panto season to begin in order to bring the family to the theatre. Shrek has a broad appeal, it is both pleasant and amusing. 

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for the North East Theatre Guide from Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook


Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* or online at*
Groups 10+: 0844 871 3042

*Transaction fee applies to telephone and online bookings.

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