Presented by Adelaide Youth Theatre
Reviewed 26 January 2018
Adelaide Youth Theatre enchants with their first production of 2018, Shrek the Musical. Directed by Thomas Phillips, the fairy-tale features two alternating casts with both adult and youth performers. On Australia Day an overheated and humid crowd squeezed into the Arts Theatre, chatting excitedly before the show.
Oversized and colourful storybooks set the mood on stage, the first in a series of impressive pieces from Set Designer Tuan Tran. Another favourite is Shrek’s swamp, detailed with muddy trees, that transforms into Duloc Castle. Undoubtedly the most impressive prop is the giant red-sequin Dragon, built by Ross Brown. The beast literally envelops the stage, requiring six puppeteers to operate. Costume Designer May Tran must be congratulated, especially for her work with the fairy-tale chorus.
The production boasts a small orchestra with two keyboards, guitars and percussion, winds and strings. Live music really heightens the performance. While the opening number Big Bright Beautiful World falls a little flat, under the care of Musical Director Jennifer Trijo they gain confidence during later songs.
The entire cast, from leads to chorus, is impressive. Ray Cullen as Shrek pays homage to Mike Myers with his accent, but makes the part his own. He has a charismatic stage presence and an impressive bass singing voice. His body language is quite static, hinting at Shrek’s nerves and self-consciousness when interacting with other people. It is not until his Act II duet with Fiona, I Think I Got You Beat, that he allows the character to come to life and indulge in carefree movements. This number is perfectly acted by both, is irresistibly endearing and one of the highlights of the show.
Cullen finds the perfect partner in Jack Conroy as Donkey. Where Cullen is reserved, Conroy is flamboyant and never abandons his optimistic and busy character. He mimics Eddy Murphy’s accent very well, while avoiding sounding stereotyped. Cullen and Conroy’s duet Travel Song is delightful and shows great chemistry between the two.
Rebecca Raymond shines as Fiona. Her charming, at times naïve, characterisation is spot-on. Her singing voice is beautiful and powerful, at times overshadowing even the orchestra. Her Act II Morning Person is performed beautifully and even features an ensemble tap dance routine. In fact, the entire production features lively and inventive choreography courtesy of Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti.
Other parts to be commended are Brady Lloyd’s incurably camp Lord Farquaard and Serena Martino-Williams’ cabaret-style Dragon. From the youth cast, Ryan Vandermyle’s Pinocchio and Jasmin Teurlings’ Gingerbread Man were bursting with charisma.
Adelaide Youth Theatre brings the story of everyone’s favourite ogre to life, and features outstanding performances from local amateur talents. Shrek the Musical proves a magical adventure for parents and children alike.
Reviewed by Nicola Woolford