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Shrek The Musical

The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Four stars

I'm A Believer may be a song made famous by both The Monkees and Robert Wyatt, but Neil Diamond's bubblegum pop classic is spot on for the finale of writer David Lindsay-Abaire and composer Jeanine Tesori's rollickingly knowing stage version of Dreamworks' animated classic. Given that the ensemble cast are all dressed up as assorted larger-than-life ogres, princesses and fairytale subversions come to dancing life in a cartoon-coloured world, the image is trippy enough to have stepped out of the Monkees' psychedelic big-screen classic, Head.

The reference probably isn't deliberate, but every other one is in a show that celebrates the weird, the outsider and the downright other while lacing the love story between jolly green giant Shrek and the too-good-to-be-true Princess Fiona with fleeting nods to its pop culture peers. Disney, Monty Python and, care of Lindsay-Abaire and Tesori, a welter of musical theatre shows are all in the mix somewhere if you can spot them.

There are other things going on too in Nigel Harman's touring production, which all but winks at the audience as it whizzes past. Pinocchio, Red Riding Hood and all the other deviants are being evicted from a swamp by Samuel Holmes' Lord Farquaad, a small man who would be king who thinks he can procure princesses to make him look like a big guy. Shrek and his sidekick Donkey's quest superficially resembles that of Don Quixote, while Lucinda Shaw's soul diva dragon and Marcus Ayton's Donkey turn things into a retro-style revue.

With all about them damaged goods, the oddball love story between Steffan Harri's Shrek and Laura Main's Princess Fiona appears goofily and charmingly dysfunctional in a world that eventually embraces its diversity in a wise-cracking monster of a show.

The Herald, December 15th 2017

ends

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