Reviewed: Shrek the Musical
By Wong Boon Ken
I’ve got a secret. Not a groundbreaking Princess Fiona-is-actually-an-ogre-type secret, but a secret nonetheless. Here goes: I don’t think I ever watched the first ‘Shrek’ movie. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Shrek 2’; ‘Shrek the Third’ was an absolute train wreck (Justin Timberlake and all) while I gave up on ‘Shrek Forever After’ by then. Therefore, I attended the opening night of ‘Shrek the Musical’ on Tuesday with no particular knowledge of the 2001 Oscar-winning animated film.
The tale begins with Shrek and Princess Fiona, played by Lukas Poost and Liz Shivener respectively, sharing stories of their early childhood through a large fairytale book diorama. It’s revealed that the green ogre was sent away from home by his parents at the age of seven, which I’m told is one of several exclusive back stories added to this silver screen-to-stage adaptation. Fast forward to present day, Shrek embarks on a quest with his newfound sidekick Donkey to save Princess Fiona, who is locked in a tower and guarded by a dragon, after a strange turn of events that stemmed from the ogre’s desire to rid his swamp of a bunch of displaced fairytale creatures.
The lavish award-winning set and costumes created a magical world that captivated the 3,000-strong audience. Merritt David Janes simply stole the show with his flamboyant portrayal of the sleazy Lord Farquaad, who longs to marry Princess Fiona in order to be king. The Vermont-born thespian sang and danced with aplomb while kneeling in order to play the pint-sized villain, which was an impressive feat indeed. The way Dragon was majestically brought to life on stage was also noteworthy, as four puppeteers were charged with manoeuvring the massive 25-foot dragon puppet.
Nonetheless, in the two-hour-long production, I just didn’t warm to either Shrek or Donkey, who didn’t manage to pull my heartstrings despite both sharing the most stage time. An alarmingly drawn out burping and farting competition between Shrek and his love interest Fiona certainly didn’t help either while Eddie Murphy’s shadow loomed large like a spectre over Jeremy Gaston’s Donkey.
‘I’m a Believer’, a The Monkees classic decades before its inclusion in the DreamWorks movie, was a fitting way to close a show that was at its best during the elaborate dance routines and musical numbers, with ‘Story of my Life’ by the Pinocchio-led fairytale creatures a standout performance. That night, I left the Plenary Hall entertained without feeling truly enchanted, but one of these days, I might just sit down, pop in a ‘Shrek’ DVD and see what all the fuss is about.
‘Shrek the Musical’ runs at Plenary Hall, KLCC till June 24. For more info, see event listing.