Old green-lugs is back and as curmudgeonly as ever as Steffan Harri takes over the outsize costume for a new UK tour of Shrek the Musical.
Structurally, there are a couple of changes in this latest incarnation – the cute kids telling Shrek and Fiona’s backstory are replaced by a picture-book fairytale and the Ugly Duckling is no longer among the fairytale characters. But these are trivial and the show feels as fresh as it ever did, particularly in its second act.
Laura Main powers into Princess Fiona’s big dance numbers. Her Act II opener Morning Person, with its rat tap-dance sequence, is faultless. She has less conviction in the first act, however. I Know It’s Today doesn’t teeter on the edges of sanity as it might. Indeed, there is a lack of emotional depth to the whole act which feels just a little too slick.
The real stars are the hard-working ensemble, drilled to pin-point accuracy by dance captain Amy Oxley. Add strong vocal delivery and they provide adequate compensation for a score which works but is never special, even when Lucinda Shaw employs her huge voice as Dragon.
Tour director Nigel Harman has brought out strong individual performances too. Marcus Ayton adds a hilarious hiccuping bray to his strong physical presence as Donkey. Samuel Holmes positively revels as the diminutive, vaingloriously camp Lord Farquaad, working those little yellow pins to excellent effect.
Most important, that great underlying moral about loving folk for who they are – not how they look – is told with clarity and joy.