Published on the Daily Express website, October 2011
Not many West End shows have a second press night just a few months after the first. But then, not many West End shows install a member of Girls Aloud in a lead role after just one season.
The revolving door of short-lived celebrity stints in the West End seems to spin ever faster, with Kimberley Walsh taking over as Princess Fiona in Shrek! The Musical just five months after Amanda Holden – who’s left to have a baby – began the role. And while the rest of the leading cast put in enthusiastic performances, it’s clear from the cheers when Walsh makes her entrance that it’s the new girl much of the crowd is there to see.
The show itself is entertaining, silly, and intermittently charming. It shamelessly lifts most of its dialogue from the 2001 animated film, resulting in a witty script with a few crasser gags thrown in to please the kids in the audience.
The songs, by theatre and film composer Jeanine Tesori, are richly orchestrated, well performed, and entirely forgettable.
The show’s lead players are a mixed bunch: West End veteran Nigel Lindsay offers a Shrek who’s gruffer and growlier than the Mike Myers film character, while comedian Richard Blackwood’s Donkey amounts to little more than a passable Eddie Murphy impersonation.
Nigel Harman, on the other hand, is a joy. The former EastEnder has the tricky task of spending all evening on his knees under a velvet blanket, with prosthetic yellow legs stuck to his thighs, to portray the diminutive villain Lord Farquaad. But he throws himself into it with gusto, rushing around stage, lunging, high-kicking and generally stealing the show – all while imbuing Farquaad with a camp insecurity that makes him the most interesting character on stage.
And then, of course, there’s Kimberley.