Many of you will be very familiar with a certain towering, green ogre with a formidable exterior but layers like an onion.
The musical version of Shrek, based on the much-loved films of the same name, follows the plot of the first film in the franchise.
From the moment the curtain rose, the marvellous set immediately transported the audience to Shrek’s swamp. This is where we were first introduced to Shrek as a young child, alongside his parents (played by Lucinda Austin, Tom Williams and Ananya Kailasam). The actors conveyed Shrek’s isolated existence in the swamp, with a stunning performance of Big Bright Beautiful World.
In short measure, we were introduced to Shrek himself, played with real presence and comic élan by Daniel Lodge, who not only looked the part with his spot-on costume, green skin and instantly recognisable ears, but also sounded the part. Being able to speak and sing in Shrek’s strong Scottish accent for the best part of two hours is no mean feat but Daniel didn’t break character for a second. This being Daniel’s last production at the College, he really went out with a bang – showcasing his notoriously powerful voice alongside the range of his acting ability, which spanned from hilarity alongside Poppy Tilling as Donkey to emotional depth and vulnerability in touching moments with Princess Fiona, played by Polly Campbell.
Poppy Tilling’s energetic and enthusiastic performance was so enjoyable to watch. She accomplished the art of every great stage actor and did not stop performing and drawing the audience’s eye for a moment. She continually got laughs for her comedy acting which encompassed all of the elements of the goofy, loveable character of Donkey that made him such an on-screen hit.
Poppy and Daniel worked incredibly well opposite each other as Shrek and Donkey; from Shrek’s initial disinterest and Donkey’s complete enthusiasm to the blossoming friendship that developed along the way. In their many songs together, the full power of the duo’s voices was a joy to behold.
Speaking of strong voices, when Bea Digance as Dragon belted out Forever accompanied by the ensemble, it was one of the highlights of the whole show. Bea, alongside a full-sized puppet dragon, pitched her performance just right as she became Donkey’s flirty, fiery love interest.
After Shrek and Donkey made it past Bea’s Dragon to arrive at the castle where she was imprisoned, we finally met the character of Princess Fiona.
The song I Know It’s Today takes the audience through Fiona’s years waiting in the tower, dreaming of being rescued. With Hattie Stephens playing the young Fiona and Millie Milne as the teenage version (both of whom sung wonderfully) leading into Polly Campbell’s first appearance as the adult Fiona.
They portrayed Princess Fiona’s dreams at each stage of the character’s life, truly capturing this story’s less-than traditional damsel in distress. All three of their voices in unison was a magical combination.
Polly Campbell’s performance as Princess Fiona was as strong as any professional performer. She embodied the character in such a convincing way, it was easy to forget this was a College production. Her portrayal seemed utterly effortless and natural, and the control she had over her voice allowed her to perfectly portray Fiona’s personality and emotions whilst bringing her own interpretation to the role.
The notorious character of Lord Farquaad, the short-in- stature ruthless ruler of the kingdom with the iconic haircut, was brilliantly played by James Harris. His costume was inspired, with little legs attached to his knees comically flailing around as he pranced about the stage. It was a fabulously preposterous and over-the-top portrayal and was a real crowd pleaser.
Giving Farquaad another character to bounce off was Jason Churcher as his henchman, Thelonious, who garnered a lot of laughs and Gingy the Gingerbread man, played by Rhys Entwistle with an impressive puppet, who delivered two classic lines perfectly.
A musical is nothing without the talents of the ensemble, the cornerstone of every production’s success. The Shrek ensemble performed several roles throughout the musical, from knights to guards and villagers, with each notably playing the mismatched assemblage of familiar fairy tale characters who took refuge in Shrek’s swamp.
Millie Milne played the fibbing Pinocchio with his growing nose; Bea Digance, Maria Pontes and Samara Sarpong were the cuddly three bears; Tom Williams hilariously took on the role as the Big Bad Wolf; and Charmaine Lee, Polina Radko and Maja Dhanani danced their way through the production as both the Three Little Pigs and Three Blind Mice. Tessa Mapp played the wizard, Jason Churcher was the giant and Leah Marks and Bea Scott flourished as fairies.
Peter Pan (Toby Renford-Fox), Little Red Riding Hood (Sasha Patient), the Mad Hatter (Phoebe Chesser), the Wicked Witch (Hattie Stephens), the Sugar Plum Fairy (Ananya Kailasam) and the Ugly Duckling (Lucinda Austin) were all instantly recognisable through their superb costumes and characterisation.
The second act started with a bang with Morning Person which featured an incredible tap-dancing routine. This was the first time many of the ensemble had tackled this style of dance, which was particularly impressive. This was shortly followed by the jazzy number, What’s Up Duloc, which was another of the production’s complex dance sequences arranged by Molly Price, the show’s Choreographer. Plus the rousing and energetic chorus number Freak Flag.
With a whopping 21 songs in the musical, ranging from solos, duets and ensemble numbers, every single cast member showcased their voices, as well as their moves, accompanied by the live band, who delivered the pivotal music to an incredibly high standard. They were cleverly tucked away backstage, under the guidance of Mr Lodge, the musical’s Music Director. Alongside professional musicians, a large portion of the music was provided by our own students; Satomi Brocklebank on percussion, Curtis Day on guitar, Anna Gillespie playing the flute and piccolo, Javis Luk on the French horn, Justin Pang on cello and Alex Povey on saxophone.
None of the magic on stage could have been achieved without the talent, commitment and hard work of those behind-the-scenes. This included the incredible crew of Leo Skingley, Josh Crockett, Josh Dixon, Jack Paulson, Alexa Neglen, Amelia Jallot, James Riley and Harry Wearne – led by our trusy Drama Technicians Keiran Kerswell and Harriet Foster and AV experts Mark Bishop and Huw Wiseman.
Shrek the Musical was just the tonic for the audience of pupils, parents and staff. Led by the wonderful directing of Miss Rhiannon Johnson, the cast completely transformed into the characters we know and love. The complex dancing, beautiful singing and impressive acting on show was a complete spectacle and the audience left in high spirits, hearts warmed before heading out into a wet and windy evening.
Well done to all the cast, musicians and crew for this incredible production – you truly deserved your standing ovation!