Unlike other film to stage adaptations, Dreamworks captures the essence of Shrek's appeal through its storybook sets, one hand and three man operated puppets, gags and industrious choreography of tap dancing rats.
It expands on the backstory we know from the original film rather than just rehashing it. That and the notion of healthy self image through a story that reverses conventional values of princess fairytales translates well through the local Australian production team Jenny Sawyer (Associate Director), Luke Joslin (Resident Director), Dave Skelton (Musical Director) and Cristina D'Agostino (Resident Choreographer).
Ben Mingay gives a solid performance of the iconic Scottish ogre striking a perfect balance of comedic saracasm bouncing off sidekick Donkey (Nat Jobe) while delivering emotional truths in vulnerability in scenes with the Princess. Much of the score highlights the humour between the two friends as they embark on their journey to rescue the Princess from the tower. Don't Let Me Go, Travel Song are used optimally to portray the relationship and currency of parodic fairytale characters and one liners that the films trade in. Mingay's versatility shown with more emotional songs like Who I'd Be are used to tap into the big green ocre's softer side. While creative liberties are taken in the script to localise jokes and pop culture references, Nat Jobe does goofy well sticking to the blueprint Eddie Murphy left in the movie adding the flamboyance required in this role as the set up to many of the show's comedic moments.
Lucy Durack taps into Cameron Diaz's softness and seeming naivety of romance. The original score I Know it's Today. In a 6 minute sequence we watch the young seven year old, teen and grown up Fiona with her character established and immersed in hopes and dreams of rescue from her "white knight and steed".
Marcia Hines is the voice of the Dragon guarding the tower Princess Fiona is held captive in. A three man operated puppet with flapping wings dominates commanding authority with Donkey Pot Pie. Performing just several numbers she appears at the end of the second act in human form to close the show with showstoppers from the film. The finale sees her belting out iconic '60s hit The Monkees I'm A Believer which brings the audience to its feet.
Todd McKenney has the challenge of working the stage performing on his knees as the two foot tall Lord Farquaad. His camp demeanor, stage presence dancing and high kicks in clever costuming add to the humour of this rendition of the Farquaad character.
In comparison to other Broadway and West End shows that have come through Sydney, the musical score is good but not as memorable. It does provide great moments for Shrek, Fiona and Lord Farquaad, but what stands out more are the ensemble numbers where choreography and costuming showcasing the other fairytale characters in What's Up Duloc and Freak Flags.
Shrek: The Musical plays at Sydney Lyric until 31 January.