Shrek The Musical

BMT Productions     Regent Centre, Christchurch  Anne Waggott  2 June  2023

Can it really be over 20 years since we were first introduced to the Scottish green ogre who would go to unimaginable lengths (for him!) to reclaim his swamp? I admit, Shrek the film has long been one of my guilty pleasures, even if I was rather ambivalent about seeing it in the first place… However, there is no ambivalence about my feelings for BMT Productions’ rendition of Shrek The Musical – I absolutely loved it! From the opening pre-show notices, it was clear that this was going to be a lot of fun!

Chris Moore embodied our cranky yet reserved eponymous hero, bringing out all the complexities (yes, really!) of this larger-than-life character, culminating in a really sympathetic creature who you just can’t help rooting for, and brilliantly bouncing off the charismatic charm of Adam Davis (Donkey). Davis captured the very essence of Shrek’s chatty and euphoric companion, with a superb voice to boot, some slick moves, and commanded the stage with every appearance.

James Doherty-Box was magnificently wicked as Lord Farquadd, with a seamlessly sleazy delivery of both dialogue and songs, an excellent voice, and a performance that proves size isn’t everything!

We were supposed to be treated to a trio of Princess Fionas throughout her life, and indeed we were, from the delightful performance of Nieve Arrowsmith’s youngest Fiona, through Jessica Nicholls’ hauntingly beautiful and wistful teenage Fiona, to Sarah Brain’s determined and forthright adult Fiona.

However, due to unforeseen circumstances (and my very best wishes to those concerned), we were then given an unexpected treat as Suzy Hill stepped up to take over the role of Fiona towards the end of Act 1. Hill was simply outstanding, with wonderfully expressive facial expressions, a stunning voice and excellent dancing, and wonderful stage presence as she brought Fiona’s feisty personality to the fore. The blossoming romance between Hill’s Fiona and Moore’s Shrek was believable and endearing… farting competitions not withstanding!

It seems churlish not to comment on each individual performer, as there wasn’t a weak link anywhere. There were so many stellar performances from the supporting characters and ensemble, showing the depth of talent across all ages present in BMT Productions: Rob Arrowsmith’s flamboyance and falsetto vividly brought Pinocchio to life; Rosie Hodgkinson was magnificent as she personified the Wicked Witch; Matt Bye led the Guards with gusto and a natural aptitude for comedy; Darcey Canning’s dancing was mesmerising; Lucy Lamb (Dragon) had a knockout, truly showstopping and powerful voice; and if Tiana Skinner wishes for a future in musical theatre, her Sugar Plum Fairy is duty-bound to grant it!

Sometimes amateur musical theatre seems to sacrifice good acting for better singing voices. Not here! All maintained their characters, accents and acting abilities throughout the up-tempo or poignant musical numbers, under the first-class direction and choreography of Lisa Stead and musical direction of James Stead. The band were fabulous, and the choreography was dynamic, slick and brought out the best from all the performers – one of my particular favourites were the tap-dancing rats!

Scenery Solutions’ storybook set and stunning D and S Costumes combined with Steve Szymanki’s scintillating sound effects and Callum Bruce’s atmospheric lighting effects to complete the production elements.

Although it was a little rough around the edges in places, such as with masking between backstage and the audience, very occasionally tuning issues, and bare natural skin tones between costumes and prosthetics, the overall effect of the production and performances was magical, and actually served as a reminder of the joys of live theatre – anything can happen! During this matinee, there was a total microphone failure which could have derailed the whole production, and yet the way it was dealt with so deftly, just demonstrates what a professional attitude and skills this amateur company possesses.

The show moved at an excellent pace, even technical issues didn’t make it miss a beat, and it kept the youngest audience members’ focus throughout – no mean feat! Looking round at the audience, there was a mixture of sheer delight and enchantment on practically everyone’s faces, from the very youngest child to the oldest grandparents, and I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle along with them.

There are two more opportunities to watch Shrek The Musical at The Regent, Christchurch on Saturday 3 June (2.00pm and 7.00pm). For the perfect family show and a thoroughly enjoyable experience, do yourself a favour and make every effort to catch it if you can. You’ll come out being a believer!