This is my first time seeing a York Stage Musicals production, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. The amateur theatre company manages to pull off an entirely professional standard production it’s hard to differentiate at times between this show and the pro tour that came to Leeds Grand last year. The clever concept of blending a professional creative team with professionally trained leads and a super talented amateur ensemble means the quality of the production is incredibly high. All in all, I’d say many elements of the show far surpassed the pro tour.
If you haven’t seen the film version, Shrek is the tale of an ogre who goes on a mission to save a princess so he can save his swamp from being taken over by banished fairytale creatures. But, when he falls in love with the princess, will he manage to win her heart in return?
The leading cast handle the piece with the humour and charisma it deserves, with poignant moments blended beautifully with farce and silliness. Nik Briggs is a lovable Shrek, a hopeless ogre hopelessly in love with the fiery Princess Fiona. Jacqueline Bell is utterly fantastic as the bold Fiona, bringing plenty of laughs to the role while remaining a beautiful fairytale princess we all want to see have a happy ending. Chris Knight as Donkey is a star of the show, too, brilliantly annoying in all the right ways.
Lord Farquaad is played with a pantomime-eqsue loathability by the wonderful Joe Wawrzyniak. It’s a joy when he’s on stage and his scenes and songs are some of the best of the night – he certainly gets the most laughs and clearly relishes it as much as the audience does!
The rest of the cast are great too, with the band of fairytale creates (particularly Sam Rippon as Pinocchio) all providing spot-on ensemble vocals and vibrant dance numbers. Hats off must go to the show’s star vocalists Emily Ramsden and Alicia Roberts who complete huge solo numbers with effortless enjoyment. I’ll be watching out for both of them carving successful professional stage careers.
The direction and choreography from Damien Poole is fantastic, truly capturing the joyful fairytale story. The costumes and the set are both great, though small moments such as seeing the backstage crew behind one of the screens and a couple of costume mishaps give the game away that this is an amateur show. The sound balance isn’t always quite right, with mics turned on and off a little inconsistently, but this is only a minor bugbear and doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment.
This is an ideal show for both adults and their kids, with humour and heartwarming moments creating a truly lovely show.
Catch Shrek The Musical at Grand Opera House, York, until 21st September 2019.