Shrek – Summer Youth Project at The Churchill Theatre

Shrek The Musical is set in a mythical ‘once upon a time’ land. It’s a story of a huge green ogre who, after spending his entire life being mocked and feared, retreats to a green swamp to exist alone. Happy in his lonely existence in the swamp, a gang of homeless fairy-take characters descend on his swamp for sanctuary. They explain that Lord Farquaad has evicted them and they have nowhere else to go. Shrek decides that tobe able to get his swamp back, he must strike a deal with Farquaad to get the Fairy-tale characters their homes back.Shrek is sent off on a quest by Farquaad to rescue Princess Fiona, from a dragon guarded tower, where she will return to Duloc and marry Farquaad and in return Shrek will be given the deeds to his swamp and the fairy-tale characters will get their homes back.

This is a modern musical and has glitz and glamour in abundance. There are some fantastic musical numbers which lend themselves to giving you some of the classic traditions of a musical and the theatrical magic.

This youth production of 120+ young people told this magical story with real professionalism, dedication and passion. It is hard to imagine that these young people have had such a short rehearsals period and were able to produce such a slick, polished and professional production. With the sheer numbers of children, it would be hard to imagine how they would all be featured. But the production team have surpassed themselves. Each and every child and young person had a part to play and a vey important one too. The enormity of the talent on the stage was just astounding. I’m not sure how I would have chosen the parts for them, but the team did a fantastic job.

To have a show where, at times, you can feature 3 of the same character each getting their time in the limelight, was just genius. There were some outstanding performances. And, if I’m honest, it’s been hard to pick some out as they all deserve a mention. But a few special mentions must go to Shrek1-Daniel Pratten, Shrek2 – Benedict King and Shrek3 – Ben Salter for all giving an amazing performance and seamlessly changing between them throughout the show. The performances where very strong and vocals were good and they really delivered on the great characterisation of being an Ogre.

I also must mention the 3 young ladies playing Princess Fiona. Fiona 1- Nadia Pettit-Johnston, Fiona 2 – Lucy Coop and Fiona 3 – Evie Hone. All three young ladies gave a solid performance and with fantastic vocals from all three girls. Again, seamlessly changing throughout without even noticing. As well as the older Fiona’s there was also Teen Fiona, played by Amelie Pettit-Johnston and young Fiona played by Bella Pettit-Johnston. All fantastic stars and talented young ladies in their own right.

Another great character was that of Donkey. Donkey 1 -Lucy Miller, Donkey 2 – Karson Reynolds and Donley 3 – Freya Millard. All had great characterisation playing a faithful donkey friend and gave solid vocal performances in many of the numbers.

Other stand out performances came from the Fairy-tale characters. Each of them shone equally in their roles. But, for me, Pinocchio (Louie Cheriton) and Gingy (Lavinia Ewart) as the vocal gingerbread man, stood out for their fully immersive characterisation and vocals when, at times, could have been a challenge staying in character but both showed this with ease.

Meredith Matthews as the vocals of the dragon where faultless. A stunning voice and a great performance, especially in ‘Forever’ was just amazing. A very talented young lady who will go far.

Lord Farquaad is a brilliant comedy part with slapstick style scenes, mainly centred around him being dwarf like size and therefore the butt of a lot of the jokes, was played superbly by Joshua Williams-Ward. He had great comedy timing, great stage presence and was able to adlib at times which is the proof of a very confident and secure performer.

Other credits must go to the puppetry team, Knights & Villagers, Animals, Duloc dancers and singers, and the Farquaad Guards all gave solid accomplished performances.

It would just not be possible to attempt a project like this without the production team, backstage team, technical team, wardrobe and make-up. Director Glenn Tillin had fantastic vision and great direction throughout this production. To be able to manage 120+ children on stage all at the same time, I take my hat off to you on a job well done. All the blood, sweat and tears have definitely been worth it. This is all not possible without the talents and patience of the choreographer Larissa Webb. Yet again she has taught, drilled and polished the production numbers throughout the show to a very high standard. Each and every child and young person was featured and the choreography was set just at the right level for all concerned. Well done on yet another successful Youth production. Daniel Beach as Musical Director has again given the cast a solid foundation of music rehearsal. All word perfect and note perfect.

A shout out must go to all the technical teams: sound, lighting, set, wardrobe, make-up, chaperones and all back stage staff. A show of this magnitude is not possible without all these people, and many I haven’t been able to mention too.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable production of Shrek and would definitely recommend seeing it, if you can get a ticket that is. My only slight criticism/technical issue would be that at times the orchestra were too loud and therefore were drowning out the young singers on stage. Which unfortunately meant they either couldn’t be heard properly or end up shouting. At times mics were late coming on for entrances and so lines were missed. But, that said, it was first night and I’m sure these technical issues will be ironed out easily. An amazing show and was totally blown away by the talent on the stage. Each and every child should be proud of what they have achieved. 

Review by Sally Smith

Shrek is running until 10th August at The Churchill Theatre. To find out more about the show visit their website.

If you like this review you might also like my review of My Son Pinocchio Jr, Bring It On, both by BTA.

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