Shrek the Musical

5th to 8th June 2024

David Lindsay-Abaire & Jeanine Tesori | Sutton Coldfield Town Hall | Directed by Richard McNally-Reilly

Sutton Coldfield’s Town Hall is transformed into the fairytale kingdom of Duloc in Trinity Players’ latest production: a high-energy staging of ‘Shrek the Musical’.

Despite being over 20 years old now (the DreamWorks Animation film on which the show is based came out in 2001) this story of an outcast ogre and his quest for love has become a firm favourite with family audiences. The central message of acceptance has lost none of its relevance. Jeanine Tesori’s music might not be the most memorable (‘I’m a Believer’ by the Monkees is the song that sticks) but combined with David Lindsay-Abaire’s witty book and lyrics it makes for a hugely enjoyable evening’s theatre.

Under Richard McNally-Reilly’s direction, this winning production sees a host of fairytale characters brought lovingly to life. The cast is considerable and, thanks to impressive costuming, instantly recognisable. Parodying a range of traditional fairytales, we meet a delightfully unusual mixture of freakish folk from Pinocchio and Goldilocks to Peter Pan, the Queen of Hearts and three hilarious blind mice complete with white sticks. It’s a real ensemble piece and they are in fine voice for the ambitiously choreographed big musical numbers.

The simplicity of the premise is a big part of the show’s winning formula: Shrek is a swamp-dwelling ogre who has learned from an early age that he does not belong and is better off alone. His view that ‘being liked is overrated’ is entirely understandable: nobody has ever got close enough to teach him otherwise. When a gaggle of fairytale characters are banished from Duloc by the villainous Lord Farquaad it sets in motion a quest story with a difference: the ogre is our hero. It’s a neat inversion and we are on ‘Team Green’ from the outset.

Tom Wells is excellent in the title role, combining a rich voice with the acting talent to nail both comic and poignant moments. ‘When Words Fail’ is a tender highlight in which, ironically, Shrek sings beautifully about the difficulty of expressing what we feel. There’s great chemistry with Ravin Thakrar’s wonderfully wacky Donkey, Shrek’s unlikely motormouth sidekick, and as their friendship develops so do the laughs. ‘Travel Song’ is a comic highlight as an exasperated Shrek wonders ‘Why me?’

Rebecca Perry combines feistiness and warmth in the role of Fiona, the beautiful princess with a secret rescued by Shrek. As they discover that they have far more in common than they first thought a real tenderness between them develops. ‘I Think I Got You Beat’ is a joyfully childish fart-fuelled duet which is sure to be a hit with younger audience members.

Putting in a delightfully camp performance as Lord Farquaad, Dan McCloskey is pint-sized perfection as the tiny tyrant. A neat visual trick emphasising his diminutive stature is hilariously convincing. Sammi Kelly-Griggs puts in an effortless vocal performance as an amorous dragon who falls for Donkey, hitting the high notes with fiery precision. And there’s excellent work from Robyn Klein-Christoffels and Charlotte Askew as a tortured gingerbread man and a high-pitched Pinocchio.

It all adds up to an uplifting celebration of diversity: something musical theatre does so well. ‘Freak Flag’ is an anthem to otherness which continues to resonate in a world of division and fear. A big, bright, beautiful production not to be missed.

‘Shrek the Musical’ is playing at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall from 5th to 8th June 2024.