If you’re in search of a show for all the family this year – then you’re in luck – Shrek the Musical has well and truly landed at the Edinburgh Playhouse. With humour, romance, and tap dancing – it really has all the boxes ticked.
We were lucky to be invited to the premiere on Thursday, so as a one off ‘school night’ treat, Charlotte and I headed along with our five year-olds, Katie and Finlay. Whilst I’m personally very familiar with the film, it’s not actually one the kids had watched many times so it was great to see how they reacted to the story.
The musical follows the film pretty much as we know it: Shrek is a grumpy ogre trying to reclaim his swamp but ends up having to rescue Princess Fiona from the dragon as part of his quest. As with any good story, all is not as it seems, but love ends up conquering all – including the evil Lord Farquaad.
Whilst the musical may not be able to capture every element of the film, it certainly provides a great introduction for kids to musical theatre. Each song helped to add complexity to the story line, the dancing was spectacular, and the puppetry of dragon was just brilliant. Both Katie and Finlay were utterly entranced by a tap dancing scene led by Princess Fiona, and Katie could resist dancing along to the final number.
There was also plenty of humour for both adults and children. Shrek and Donkey’s wordplay at Lord Farquaad’s expense, Donkey’s attitude, and the occasional innuendo kept the adults happy. Whilst the kids were in absolute hysterics at a song basically composed of burps and farts. Fiona’s singing resulting in an exploding bird also went down well!
My biggest surprise was that for me, Lord Farquaad – played by Samuel Holmes – absolutely stole the show. Despite having his ‘real legs’ hidden to ensure his short stature remained a defining feature, he successfully led dance routines round the stage. Without exception, I was laughing at every scene he dominated, although I couldn’t help keep thinking about how sore his knees must’ve been. Whilst, I’m well aware he was intended to fulfil the role of ‘bad guy’, I was actually quite sorry when he found his demise.
The musical ended exactly the same way as the film, with the whole cast joining in a rendition of ‘I’m a believer’ – which finally had the audience clapping along. In retrospect, I’m struck that although each song helped the plot, none were particularly memorable. The kids aren’t humming any tunes or repeating lyrics either. Although there was a song that featured a few times throughout – there just isn’t an ear worm!
With the combination of Princess Fiona’s longing for rescue, Donkey’s humour and enthusiasm, and Shrek’s good nature finally winning the day – it was actually fairly reminiscent of your traditional pantomime. Particularly with all the opportunities (and prompts) for ‘Awwws’ and laughs. But having born the pain of a pantomime full of random filler songs… this was infinitely better.
If you’re attending with kids then two tips: take £8 for Shrek or Princess Fiona ‘ears’ – they’re super cute and easier to transport than a gingerbread man puppet. And for the smaller ones, if you head up to the circle level you can give a £5 deposit for a ‘booster’ seat; you’ll only get £4 back at the end if you return it but makes it a bit easier for the kids to see and sit comfortably. I think the majority of kids would still end up sitting on parent’s laps at some point – but that’s not exactly the end of the world!
P.S. Shrek The Musical is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until 7th January 2018. Tickets here.
(Photo credit to Helen Maybanks).