It was the end of another era in the West End last Saturday as Shrek The Musical found its Happy Ever After for the last time. The stage adaption of the popular DreamWorks film, featuring a book by David Lindsay-Abaire and music and lyrics by Jeanine Tesori, closed its doors for good on Saturday 24th February. Since the moment Shrek The Musical opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 11th June 2011, adults and children alike were enchanted by this song-and-dance version of the alternative fairy-tale love story about the green swamp-dwelling ogre who sets off on an adventure with his wise-cracking friend Donkey to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona. It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but its fans outweighed its detractors – the show was even nominated for four Olivier Awards, of which it won one in the category of Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical.
It was on the stage of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane that Nigel Lindsay originated the role of Shrek, which understudy Dean Chisnall took over in February 2012. Shrek The Musical has also featured an assortment of celebrity names within its cast in the 20 months it ran in the West End. Media personality Richard Blackwood appeared for the entirety of the show’s run as Donkey and former Eastenders actor Nigel Harman was acclaimed for his portrayal of the vertically-challenged Lord Farquaad. Fellow Eastenders alumnus Neil McDermott later took over the role from Harman. It was TV actress and presenter Amanda Holden who completed the principal cast in the role of Princess Fiona before being replaced by Girls Aloud’s Kimberly Walsh, following the announcement of her pregnancy. Hollyoaks star Carley Stenson, who previously played the lead role in Legally Blonde, took over from Walsh and closed the show as Shrek’s princess love.
A UK tour is in the works for 2014, but for now, Shrek The Musical has sung its last hurrah. Everything must come to an end, but where one door closes another one opens, and that is also true of this instance. Shrek The Musical may have left tone West End stage, but a new visitor has taken up residence on another.
The Broadway smash-hit The Book of Mormon played its first preview last night (Monday 25th February) and is already well on its way to being just as big a success here as it was across the pond. Ticket holders for the premiere performance queued up at the Prince of Wales Theatre overnight to secure the best seats for themselves and excitement was running high. Its West End run has already been extended twice, and in a show of the popularity of its appeal, is already sold out. Fans who are desperate to see it can enter the daily lottery, which releases a limited number of extra tickets two hours before each performance.
The Book of Mormon is the product of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in collaboration with the award-winning Robert Lopez (Avenue Q). It is a satire of Mormonism which follows two young Mormon missionaries who are sent to a remote village in Northern Uganda to spread the word to its native inhabitants. Definitely not one for children, The Book of Mormon is a filthy, smut-ridden show which contains some serious profanity and includes such popular musical numbers as ‘Man Up’, ‘Spooky Mormon Dream Hell’ and ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’. Despite its crass aspects though, it is also a surprisingly sweet story which has a lot of heart, which has won it 9 Tony Awards and a sure chance of winning further awards on our shores.
American actors Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner reprise their US tour roles as Elder Price and Elder Cunningham respectively. The original London company also features such prominent West End names as Alexia Khadime (Les Miserables, Wicked), Stephen Ashfield (Jersey Boys, Legally Blonde) and Olivia Phillip (Ghost The Musical, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert). Last night’s preview performance saw creators Parker and Stone make an on-stage appearance, with Parker saying: “We heard that a lot of you lined up overnight for tickets… and we want to say from the bottom of our hearts, you’re… crazy. We don’t know that any show can live up to that.”
The West End is a cyclical industry that can be likened to a revolving door that welcomes in new shows as it sees out exiting ones. It’s always sad to say goodbye to an old friend, but without their departure, we would never have the opportunity to make some new ones: I think The Book of Mormon is fast going to become the new popular kid in the playground.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Tuesday 26th February 2013