The classic children's story, performed and produced by recent award winning Darlington Operatic Society
Last night Darlington Hippodrome was transported away from the cold dark October night and into the bright and crazy Kingdom of Duloc in this, Darlington Operatic Society's Autumn Show. Following on the heels of smash hits as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Strictly Musicals 3, this show announces this current cast has arrived - as mature, polished and professional a production worthy in ANY theatre across the country. The leads have grown and matured into their craft and now deliver with a confidence and assuredness that would not be out of place from a group of LAMDA, Julliard or RADA Alumni (but with less pretentiousness and more friendly accents).
Whilst Shrek The Musical is undoubtedly a children's story, it is by no means a kids show - the numbers are funny, powerful and packed full of nuance, the choreography (thanks to Director and Choreographer Joanne Hand) is tight and high octane and the performances are as complex and demanding as any musical requires.
Leading our show is Nicholas Fletcher-Holmes, a larger than life Shrek whose broad Scottish accent never slips once - Nic gives the big green ogre all the warmth and humour so readily recognisable. His riffing with Donkey (Ben Connor) is perfect; like two old friends, one who is totally besotted with the bromance and one who tolerates it, not because he doesn't value it, but because he doesn't want to admit that he values it. Ben has, over the years, shown that as a comedic actor there are very few in the company (or in North East theatre) who can rival him - his timing, his characterisations and the way he adopts a metamorphosis into a role is simply amazing.
Starring opposite Nicholas as the adult Princess Fiona is Ellen Dunbavin. Ellen is wonderful, she gives Fiona the strength and sass of a modern Disney Princess but retains a little vulnerability, especially when Fiona steps out into the outside world for the first time. The opening to Act 2 with her song "Morning Person" is hilarious; she morphs from wide-eyed naïve young woman into "I've got this world sussed" princess in 5 minutes flat, managing a brilliant song and dance routine with a bunch of rats for good measure.
Final call for the main characters goes to Lord Farquaad, whose small part (see what I did there) is handed to Leighton Taylor-Jones. Now most know that I have always enjoyed Leighton's performances, whether they be funny, sincere, evil, subtle or rootin' tootin' in your face, however I think with Lord F he may have surpassed everything that has come before. Channelling John Lithgow from the original animated movie, some Kenneth Connor and Kenneth Williams from Carry On, a splash of Rick Mayall's Lord Flashhart from Black Adder and a soupcon of Mike Myers' Austin Powers (especially from Goldmember and the song "Daddy Wasn't There" ) Leighton takes character performing to a new level. In particular, The Ballad of Lord Farquaad is something you would see on the Royal Variety Performance.
The Dragon, powerfully voiced by Rhiannon Walker is scene stealing and a great chinese style dragon puppet. special call to Young Shrek and the Young Fionas - Noah Abbas, Abigail Moore an Rachel Geddes, proving that DOS bring their future stars in nice and early - ones to watch out for in future years.
In a cast of so many, each with just as an important part to play to create the fairytale characters, it is not possible to name check everyone but rest assured your performances are all seen, enjoyed and loved. The costumes led by Wardrobe Manager Linda Sams and the prosthetics and make up make each character instantly recognisable whilst clever set design keeps the scene changing to a minimum yet very effective.
Another wonderful DOS production and certainly a brilliant way to forget the troubles of the outside world; grab some tickets, get a programme (this version by MT Print is packed with trivia, insight and great pictures) and have a really great evening out - your friends will be GREEN with envy.
Shrek the Musical by Darlington Operatic Society runs at Darlington Hippodrome until Saturday November 5th - tickets https://bit.ly/3W6wKsI