Yesterday my girls and I decided to go on a girl’s day. We went to go see the musical “Shrek” that is on at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City. I had seen the Broadway version of this show before and have watched many behind the scene videos about the production. I was really excited to see it right here live in South Africa because I had seen what a complex production it is to put together.
The musical brings everyone’s favourite Ogre and fairy tale friends to life in such a ‘shrektacular’ way. The production is extremely aesthetically exciting as well as funny and charming. When Shrek the movie first came out in 2001, it pushed so many boundaries. It changed the face of traditional fairy tales because the princess does not end up with the prince, she ends up with the ugly Ogre. It also showed so many new and interesting techniques in animation that it won the first ever academy award for an animation feature film in 2002.
With a film so unique and special it only made sense to turn it into a Broadway musical. The production opened on Broadway in 2008 and spent almost two years in The Broadway Theatre. The original cast included the amazing Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona and the wonderful Brian Darcey James as Shrek. During 2010 and 2011 the production toured the USA and played on the west end in London. After a successful tour, the rights for the musical were opened up to theatres all over the world. The production has been put on in countries like Israel, Madrid, Sydney and Budapest and now South Africa…. Lucky us!
After seeing this production live, I understand why it is such a thriving production and franchise. The production is very kid friendly however the humour is aimed at parents which makes the perfect combination. Kids are drawn to colour and excitement which is exactly what this production incorporates. It truly is an experience for the eyes! The set design and costumes are so bright and eye catching that I could not take my eyes off of the stage. There were no boring moments that allowed my eyes to wonder, they were hooked on the bright backdrops and over the top outfits the entire time.
Another aspect of this show, or in fact franchise, is that the characters are so relatable! Yes, it is about an Ogre, a princess and their friends. But after about the first 5 minutes you don’t see an Ogre anymore. You see a man who has always been told he does not fit in and now he is learning to be in touch with his emotions. The audience does not watch an Ogre fight his way to solitude, rather they watch the emotional journey of two ‘freaks’ becoming comfortable with themselves and each other. It is actually pretty deep once you think about it…
The story embraces difference and emotions in such a beautiful way. Every character has a back story that comes through, even the fairy-tale creatures. Because of the back stories we understand the context that the characters are in so much more clearly. The song “I think I got you beat” that Shrek and Fiona sing is a brilliant example of this. In the song they try and beat each other on who had the worst childhood. it quickly becomes obvious that they both had equally difficult childhoods and because of it have more in common than other one of them thought. This scene particularly is a really lovely turning moment in the show. We watch as Fiona becomes less fairy-tale princess and more real and Shrek becomes less scary Ogre and more emotional.
As I was watching the show yesterday I kept think of how professional it all felt. I genuinely felt like I was watching a show that could hold its own next to any current Broadway or west end production. Everything was on point. The only criticism I could give the production is that it felt a bit to long for a child orientated show. The show was almost 3 hours long and I feel like that is a long time to sit still for children. Luckily though the music and bright colours managed to keep majority of the children still for 80% of the production.
All in all, this production really is a must see during the July Holidays. It is completely family friendly and I guarantee everyone will enjoy it. There is a Princess for the girls, a hero for the boys, humour for mom and dad and music for everyone in-between! The show is running at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City till the 17th of July.