Shrek The Musical
|Date||26th October 2021|
|Society||Northampton Musical Theatre Company|
|Venue||The Derngate, Northampton|
|Type of Production||Musical|
|Musical Director||Graham Tear|
Author: Alex Wood (for Keith Loynes)
Shrek the Musical - based on the animated film of the same name is a very clever blend of modern musical, pantomime and zany, off-the-wall comedy. I ‘made up the numbers’ to see the show at a Sunday matinee in London a few years ago; I wasn’t looking forward to it but came out of the theatre delighted by its humour which, like the best pantomime, had something to offer everyone in the audience.
NMTC put on a spectacular musical every year and this was no exception. The production values are very high. Ace West End director Martyn Knight in charge of action on stage, the very experienced and talented local musician Graham Tear the maestro of the pit, a professionally-produced set, and, likewise a brilliant selection of costumes.
As with other societies Covid cast a shadow over this show, its malign influence determining the way auditions and early rehearsals were done with all concerned having to take great care to keep everyone safe. But in the case of this show it had a particularly nasty sting in the tail - with leading man (yes, that’s Shrek!) Ian Hammond-Stark struck down with Covid less than a week before Curtain up.
Dan Hodson is a very talented and experienced performer, called as the clock ticked down to play the part. That he did it with such style is a tribute to the best of amateur theatre. No problem with the lines, the songs, movement and the essential rapport with the audience, Dan was a great Shrek.
Ashleigh Standage, as Princess Fiona was the perfect foil for Shrek. Another experienced performer, Ashleigh combines a lovely strong singing voice with good acting skills and a fine understanding of comedy and comic timing. The pair combined extremely well - they did the comically rude duet (featuring farts and burps - a topic apparently never considered by Lerner and Loewe as a sort of romantic ballad) ‘I Think I Got You Beat’ perfectly.
The enthusiastic NMTC regular Luke White was Donkey. In turns annoying (‘Don’t Let Me Go’) and endearing in his friendship for Shrek there is no doubt that Luke endeared himself to the audience.
Lord Farquaad is the baddy of the piece, exiling the fairytale creatures to Shrek’s swamp - to their mutual distress, then ‘stealing’ Fiona from Shrek in order to marry her so that he can become King of Duloc. Ama Scuotto played this role with huge relish, which (seriously) cannot be easy when you’re on your knees. I loved his movement and facial expressions which made sure that we knew this was a ‘villain’ we could laugh at. Maybe it was posture, maybe enthusiasm, but at times we lost the words which is maybe something Ama could work at.
The Fairy Tale Characters were a colourful treat to behold. Lots of witty wordplay. I especially enjoyed the instruction to the three bears about where to stand - ‘Too far…too close…just right’ - and the comment to Peter Pan about him not shaving at 34. Ben Mineards played Pinocchio very confidently with just the right amount of ‘wooden boy’ angst and I enjoyed Jay Upton’s portrayal of the Sugar Plum Fairy, together with her puppetry of Ging (the gingerbread boy) and her leading part in the anthemic song ‘Freak Flag’. But it would be wrong not to commend all the Fairy Tale characters on the part they played.
I was impressed by the Serpent, her puppeteers and her voice, powerfully provided by Lisa Simpson.
The two dance numbers were performed well; crisp and precise.
Graham Tear and his 14-piece orchestra were excellent - so goo to hear high-quality live music again. What a treat!
At times scene changes could have been just that bit slicker and the pace just a little faster but I expect that will come. Overall NMTC’s Shrek is a ver, very good show.