Tuesday, September 26

Shrek The Musical – Northwich Memorial Court

Knutsford Musical Theatre Company (KMTC) return to tread the boards in Northwich again, only this time it is the swamp that takes over the stage, as Shrek and friends pay a visit! Directed by Ben Ireson, the musical is based on the well-known, Oscar winning film by DreamWorks – an ambitious task perhaps but one that KMTC have wanted to embrace for several years having been given the rights to perform it five years ago.

With recent outstanding performances in terms of KMTCs productions of ‘Do you hear the people sing?’ and prior to that the fabulous ‘Ghost The Musical’, it is safe to say that ‘Shrek The Musical’ is a mammoth task, surely even for this award-winning musical theatre company. Intrigued prior to the performance and with so many questions such as ‘How will the swamp appear on stage?’ ‘Will the costumes stand up?’ ‘And the green face paint?..’ I have to say this performance did not disappoint.

For those who may have not been aware of what the story is about, it is essentially about a rather reluctant hero ‘Shrek’ (Oliver Ball) who also happens to be an ogre and his mission is to rescue ‘Princess Fiona’ (Maria Ames) from her castle, or more specifically her tower, where she has lived alone for many years. With an abundance of colourful characters based on children’s fairy tales, it is a production that certainly changes your view of any preconceived ideas you may have had about them in their traditional sense.

Oliver Ball’s casting as ‘Shrek’ was spot on and an inspired choice. Having previously performed an assortment of roles he was more than worthy of the lead role. With a Scottish accent and almost ‘monotone’ vocals and a ‘deadpan’ approach to any emotional connection with others he was the perfect ‘Shrek’. Although present in the majority of scenes, his quality did not falter throughout.

Maria Ames performed her socks off as ‘Princess Fiona’ and her relationship with Ball (Shrek) was very special to watch. Vocally she was consistent throughout the performance and her duets with Balls particularly ‘I think I got you beat’, in Act two was very powerful.

Thomas Frith (Lord Farquaad) was outstanding. Camp, devious and very, very small (no spoilers!) he commanded the stage whenever he was present in a scene. Popular with the audience, his sidewards glances, the tossing of his ‘ironed’ hair and exaggerated moves such as when he came on riding a plastic horse was very amusing to watch. Usually working off the stage, this performance absolutely demonstrates a need to have Frith on stage more.

With many accolades to his name, Ben Ireson’s role as ‘Pinocchio’ was magnificent. Commanding the stage, and wonderfully connecting with the other fairy tale characters, he absolutely must be applauded. Not only having such a role but also directing the entire performance there surely must be many more awards coming his way. Always a pleasure to watch, this particular performance, did not disappoint at all.

K Ellis who played the part of ‘Donkey’ was the perfect casting for Shrek’s friend and confidante. With comedic timing he had the audience in stitches. Initially there appeared to be some slight microphone challenges at the beginning of Act one but this did not take away the hilarity on stage when he was in a scene.

With too many names to mention the fairy tale characters added richness to all scenes. A special mention must go to the very talented Hannah Young who played ‘Dragon’. Her performance in Act one singing ‘Forever’ demonstrated her powerhouse of a voice and much stage presence.

The staging was excellent and beautifully framed the entire production. Many plants, flowers, twigs and even a tree presented a wonderful visual as you entered the theatre.

Choreography was spectacular and Sophie Dickens must also be applauded as dance was seamless throughout.

Put quite simply KMTCs version of ‘Shrek, the musical’ was a colourful, visual delight for all theatre lovers, young and old. Yet again KMTC have delivered on every level, and nothing was left off the stage. With crazy fairy tale characters there may be a chance you will wake up and not quite believe that all this was not a dream in the morning.

On at Northwich Memorial Theatre until 22nd May tickets are selling very fast – contact the box office for tickets on 0800 433 7267.

Reviewer: Angela Kelly

Reviewed: 18th May 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★