Whispers have been abound for months concerning the possible closure of Shrek The Musical and last week it was finally confirmed that the show is indeed set to leave the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Shrek will play its last performance on Sunday 4th February 2013 after spending just over a year and a half in the West End.
Based on Dreamworks’ animated film, the fairy-tale-with-a-difference has become a favourite with adults and kids alike, all around the world. The stage adaption premiered on Broadway in 2008 and transferred to the West End in 2011, opening on 14th June (with previews from 6th May). TV presenter and actress Amanda Holden originated the role of the feisty ‘Princess Fiona’ here in London, opposite Nigel Lindsay as grumpy green ogre ‘Shrek’, with Richard Blackwood and Nigel Harman as ‘Donkey’ and ‘Lord Farquaad’ respectively. More celebrity names have taken to the Theatre Royal’s stage since then to be a part of the fairy tale, including Girls Aloud band member Kimberly Walsh (‘Fiona’), TV/stage actress Carley Stenson (current ‘Fiona’) and former Eastenders star Neil McDermott (current ‘Lord Farquaad’).
Shrek has been what some may call a bit of a ‘marmite’ show when it comes to audience reception, with some loving it while others hated it. Predominantly it was well received, by both theatregoers and critics who saw Shrek for what it is: a few hours of fun for all the family. Most will agree that it isn’t the strongest show in town and was never expected to join the ranks of the West End long-runners, but it certainly did bring its own brand of entertainment to the table.
I’ve taken my daughter to see Shrek on a couple of occasions now and we’ve always had a good time of it. I can still remember the look on her face when ‘Shrek’ appeared in the audience during the ‘stop the wedding’ scene and ran right through our aisle – she jabbered on about that one for the next few days! As a self-confessed lover of the melodramatic musicals such as The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, this ‘pantomime’ show has never quite done it for me, which is not to say I’ve actively hated it but it’s unlikely to ever be on my list of favourite musicals. I can’t deny though that with each time of going to see it, the seats have been filled with such a variety of people; not just families with children but adults young and old too, all of whom have laughed along with every joke and actually seemed to be enjoying themselves more than the children in the audience as well. You can’t argue a show’s success when you see something like that.
My daughter banged her hands on the table and shouted “What???” when I told her the news of the musical’s closure, then proceeded to opine about the stupidity of the decision and curse the person who made it (I had to assure her it wasn’t the same ‘stupid man’ who closed Love Never Dies…she may just have imploded at that point if it had been). My drama queen of a daughter may have made it seem like the end of the world, but the departure of Shrek is still going to leave a lot of people disappointed.
Perhaps they may be slightly appeased by the production which is to follow Shrek: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Based on the book by famous children’s author Roald Dahl, it is a beloved story which has twice been turned into a big-screen version and now, it is set to come to the stage. Previously expected to go into the London Palladium, it has now been announced that the show – directed by Sam Mendes – will open at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in June 2013 (previews from 18th May). Speaking about the interchange of these two shows, Dreamworks Theatrical’s Bill Damaschke said: “When we moved into the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in March 2011, we knew that it would be the perfect home for Shrek The Musical and so it has proved to be…It is not without sadness that we have decided to leave next year, but it is some consolation that Sam Mendes and Caro Newling at Neal Street Productions will retain the lease.” Damaschke also made mention of plans take Shrek on a UK tour in 2014, as well as bringing Madagascar Live! to the UK and a live arena tour of How To Train Your Dragon next year.
Theatre is a wonderful outing for any child to experience and today’s shows (like Shrek) help to bring in the audiences of tomorrow. Shrek may be disappearing from the scene for now, but it is a fairy tale after all and everyone knows that fairy tales always have a happy ending…
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 6th September 2012