Shrek the Musical by Cygnet Players


Shrek is a musical I am incredibly fond of and (full disclosure) the show I am currently directing for Bromley Players. The musical is based on the 2001 film and is full of heart and a great moral message. Add to that some catchy songs and there is the foundations of a great musical there.

The show spends a lot of time with the 3 principle characters, Shrek, Donkey and Fiona and therefore it is incredibly important that these performers are strong. Shrek was played by Joe McWilliam who had a strong presence and singing voice. He also managed to maintain the infamous accent throughout and strike a balance between lovable and slightly gross! Donkey was played by Adam Walker-Galbraith and at times he threatened to steal the show. Donkey has some great lines and combined with Walker-Galbraith’s deliver he got some of the biggest laugh’s of the night. Donkey’s songs also require a big vocal range to be able to deliver them, from the smooth Barry White-esq vibe in Make a Move to some top tenor notes in ‘Forever,’ and Walker-Galbraith delivered all of these with vocal prowess and a truck load of character.

Photos by Steve Gregson

Princess Fiona was Gemma Louise Zirfas and she really made her mark on the role with her character choices. Her accent was different how how Fiona is normally portrayed but I enjoyed that she wasn’t trying to mimic anyone in her performance and left me feeling that she was very fresh.

The ensemble were well utilised as fun fairy tale creatures, we had everyone from Mulan to Goldilocks make an appearance in order for Cygnet Players to ensure that there were enough ensemble parts. The only issue with this is that on occasion the stage felt a little crowded and consequently the strong character work that was being delivered by this hard working ensemble got missed. I would also urge Cygnet Players to look at the final blocking for Believer as the bench at the back of the stage didn’t rise Shrek and Fiona high enough above the ensemble for where I was sat in row E and I missed seeing them at all throughout the song.

There were also times where I wanted the ensemble numbers to be more character driven rather than dance driven. Story of My Life was a good example of this where it seemed as if they broke out into dance too early rather than let the story be told through song and clever movement.

Even if you have 3 strong leads Shrek is not an easy show to put on, the set is not straightforward as you transition from Fiona’s tower, to a Dragon’s keep (complete with a huge Dragon puppet), to a swamp and finishing in a grand Cathedral. Add to that complex costume requirements including prosthetics for no less than 5 cast members and a cast member who spends the entire show on his knees it is certainty a financial and creative challenge for an amateur group.

Cygnet Players rose to the challenge on many accounts. The set had been hired in from Scenic Projects and it worked well in the space Cygnet Players had. On the whole scene changes were smooth and as I saw Shrek on the opening night I am sure they will speed up as the week goes on. My only criticism is that some parts felt a bit unnecessary, for example adding back into the script Lord Farquuad in the bath. This meant that there was a pause in the flow of the show whilst the actor had to get into the bath in the wings and then get pushed onto stage. When on stage he was only in it for a matter of moments.

The costumes, hired in from Dan Smith Design were beautifully done, with Fiona’s dress looking to be a rich green velvet and the Fairy Tales creatures were an explosion of colour. The prosthetics were on the whole well done although unfortunately the short space of time left at the end for Fiona’s transformation meant that her final look was less polished than others.

Overall Cygnet Players did a good job with a challenging show, an impressive amount of attention to all elements had Gone into this show with 3 solid leads, colourful costume and set and a show with a real heart.

Shrek is on at London Oratory School until 22nd February 2020. To find out more about Shrek and to book tickets visit their website.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Cygnet Players productions of Spring Awakening, Kiss Me Kate and All Shook Up.

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