Shrek, The Musical JR

Date 10th December 2023
Society Darlington Academy of Performing Arts
Venue Darlington Community Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Directors Paul Mason, Joanne Mason
Choreographer Paul Mason, Joanne Mason


Author: Richard Hamilton-Leighton

In a dazzling display of creativity, the Darlington Community Theatre, a recent addition to the Darlington arts scene, played host to the Darlington Academy of Performing Arts' (DAPA) production of “Shrek The Musical Jr. This performance was a testament to the commitment of DAPA's leaders to bring accessible theatre to the community, unfolded within the newly transformed walls of the former working men's club, now a thriving hub for the performing arts. Whilst, their venture is separate from DAPA, it is worth mentioning that DAPA's leaders have been instrumental in establishing the Darlington Community Theatre Charity. The repurposed venue, once a dormant working men's club, has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis, emerging as a vibrant theatre space. This transformation not only provided a fitting setting for the “Shrek The Musical Jr” production but also served as a beacon of DAPA's dedication to fostering the arts within the community.

A distinctive element of the production was the use of storytellers—Sophia Pick, Amber Wraith, and Isabelle Metcalfe—who skilfully wove the narrative and kept the audience engaged and informed throughout the production. Their presence added a layer of cohesion to the storyline, guiding the audience through the whimsical world of Shrek with finesse.

As the story unfolded in Shrek's swamp, it became apparent that the stage was teeming with magical fairy-tale creatures. Among these fantastical beings was “Pinocchio”, portrayed by Millie Cadman, who cleverly wielded the iconic extending nose prop. Millie’s adept handling of this whimsical accessory injected humour into the character, showcasing a commendable blend of creativity and skill.

In the role of “Gingy”, Jake Shaw seized the spotlight, delivering a strong performance that resonated particularly in the opening vocals of 'Freak Flag.' Jake’s vocals exhibited both strength and projection, setting a high standard.

A notable standout amidst the ensemble was Isla Mason, who embodied the “Ugly Duckling.” Despite being a young performer, Isla held her own amidst a stage filled with seasoned talent, showcasing a stage presence that beyond her age. Her performance underscored the depth of emerging talent fostered by DAPA.

I cannot overlook the impressive Dragon prop, this not only served as a visual spectacle but also provided a captivating backdrop for Freya Moir's rendition of 'Forever.' Freya’s vocals were nothing short of commanding, with a powerful and pitch-perfect delivery that held the audience spellbound. Even when faced with technical challenges with the microphones, her professionalism shone through, adding an extra layer of admiration for her performance.

In the role of “Lord Farquaad”, Seb McKie brought a delightful comedic flair to the stage. Taking full advantage of the character's quirks and the distinctive costume, McKie delivered comedic moments that resonated with the audience, showcasing a keen understanding of Farquaad's character.

Mia Scott, portraying the iconic “Donkey”, brought a fresh perspective to the role. In a departure from mimicking Eddie Murphy's film portrayal, Scott injected her unique spin into the character, navigating the challenges of a role known for its charismatic complexity.

The titular character, “Shrek”, was skilfully brought to life by Owen Morris. Owen delivered a performance characterized by strength and poise, navigating the pressure of embodying such a well-known character with calm assurance. His comic timing was nothing short of perfect and his delivery was superb. His lyrical finesse, especially evident in songs like "Big, Bright, Beautiful World", and "Big, Bright, Beautiful World Reprise" demonstrated a nuanced understanding of the character and showcased a promising talent destined for a bright future.

In the role of “Young Fiona”, Erica Gregory delivered an exceptional performance that surpassed expectations. Despite her tender age, Erica exhibited a stage presence and singing ability that were truly remarkable, elevating her portrayal to stand out amidst the ensemble. Amber Wraith as Teen Fiona gave a good performance. Their rendition of "I Know It's Today" was a testament to their stage presence and vocal prowess.

However, it was Madison Parkinson, portraying “Fiona”, who stole the show with what can only be described as the vocal performance of the night. Madison’s impressive tone, unwavering tenacity, and the ability to maintain character while delivering powerful vocals left an indelible mark on the audience. Her performance, especially in the face of challenging technicalities, was nothing short of breath-taking and undoubtedly a highlight of the evening. Well done Madison – I’m looking to seeing you in your next production!

Not to be overlooked, the chorus provided a dynamic and harmonious backdrop, contributing significantly to the overall success of the production. Their collective efforts added depth and richness to the musical numbers, showcasing the strength of the ensemble.

In conclusion, DAPA's production of “Shrek The Musical Jr”. was not only a testament to the academy's growth but also a promising sign for the future of Darlington Community Theatre. The evening unfolded as a celebration of emerging talent, dedicated leadership, and a community's shared love for the performing arts. As the final notes lingered in the air, it was evident that DAPA is indeed moving from strength to strength, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of Darlington.