Shrek the Musical ~ Milton Keynes Theatre

Star rating: *****

Shrek is one of my all-time favourite animated films, the sheer hilarity of the fairy-tale mickey taking ticks the box and the musical stage version is no different. With a few tongue-in-cheek nods to other musicals such as ‘Gypsy’, ‘Wicked’ and ‘Les Miserables‘ for good measure, this show has it all – outrageous comedy moments, catchy songs and a cast de force. It comes as no surprise that Nigel Harman, (who created the role of Lord Farquaad in the show’s west end debut) has directed this hit, what a superb job he’s done!

The stage incarnation doesn’t differ to widely from the movie, in fact it offers some of Shrek’s back-story which synchronises with Princess Fiona’s in a back-handed destiny kind of way! All of the jaded fairy tale characters are there too, from the Big Bad Wolf dressed as Grandma to a depressed Pinocchio to the Gingerbread Man. They’ve been kicked out of their homes by the dastardly Lord Farquaad and they’re heading in the direction of Shrek’s swamp. Outraged at the idea of sharing his home, Shrek embarks upon a journey to seek out Lord Farquaad and re-home the fairy tale rejects. Along the way he meets the talking Donkey, who becomes his insistent side-kick throughout. Subsequently, Shrek becomes a reluctant hero when he rescues the secretive Princess Fiona from a tower guarded by a love-struck Dragon (a sight to behold).

Steffan Harri plays the over-sized green loveable Ogre and he is outstanding in the role, from the Scottish accent to amazing vocal ability. The chemistry with Laura Main as Princess Fiona is also palpable and in case any ‘Call The Midwife‘ fans are wondering, Laura Main is an exceptional Princess Fiona. Her singing voice is pitch perfect and she showcases herself wonderfully as a triple threat. Marcus Ayton shines as Donkey, he gives Eddie Murphy (who voices the character in the movie) a run for his money. Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad steals all of the scenes he appears in, he’s on his knees for a start off – to achieve the under-sized stature. Add a bit of razzmatazz and his musical numbers are comedy gold. Lucinda Shaw was awe-inspiring as the Dragon, the sheer power of her vocals continues to resonate. Comic timing is one of the many strengths of the multi-talented cast and I include the brilliant ensemble in that. Every performer is going above and beyond to recreate a well loved movie and they should all be proud of the ‘job’ they’re doing.

The songs in the show punctuate the story brilliantly, ‘I Know It’s Today’ was one of my favourite numbers performed by Princess Fiona, together with a selection of Princess puppets. She also has a show-stopping scene with the song ‘Morning Person’. ‘Big Bright Beautiful World’ epitomises the heart of the tale and ‘Freak Flag’ provides the ensemble with a fantastic opportunity to take the helm. The whole soundtrack is toe-tapping, engaging and memorable though.

The set captures the essence of the film and moves seamlessly with the action. The choreography is also notable, it’s fairly uncomplicated to allow for cumbersome (and stunning!) costumes, yet it’s effective and eye-catching. Congratulations to Choreographer, Josh Prince and Assistant Choreographer, Jacqui Sanchez.

Miss this show and you’ll miss out, it’s the ultimate feel-good musical and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It was also the first full length musical we had taken our junior reviewer to, and at just 4 years of age it was a risk, however it was a risk worth taking as he was captivated. Therefore, I say with confidence that Shrek the Musical is a show for all the family.

Book your tickets here: Shrek The Musical Tickets

Photo credits: Shrek the Musical website
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Call The Midwife, Series Seven Finale ~ Review

It’s taken me a week and a second viewing of the series finale of Call The Midwife in order for me to be able to compile my thoughts. The series itself has been a minefield of ups and downs, highs and lows and there hasn’t been one episode that hasn’t left me in tears – at some point. The writers on Call The Midwife are so consistent and they certainly know how to tug at the heart strings. The departure of Barbara (Charlotte Ritchie) is still ricocheting about in my mind as I ponder on the brilliance of the episode that I’ll have to cling onto until Christmas! Here are my highlights from yet another dream of an instalment of one of my favourite television programmes.

Funeral

If you haven’t watched the episode yet then tissues will not only be necessary – they will be VITAL! Barbara’s funeral was one of the saddest scenes on television I’ve ever seen and when Phyllis (the mighty Linda Bassett) appeared to give her reading, I was in need of a life jacket, I was literally drowning in tears. Barbara will be so missed and much as I understand that it was time for the glorious Ms Ritchie to move on to pastures new, I can’t believe she’s been written out!

Happy Birthday Angela

I was in tears again when Shelagh (Laura Main) broke down in Dr Turner’s (Stephen McGann) arms as she tried to move on from the funeral and prepare for Angela’s (Alice Brown) birthday party. The fact that she was keeping busy to occupy her mind resonated. It was a pretty fabulous party though, mummy did good.

Phyllis

Let’s just take another moment to appreciate the talent of Linda Bassett who has excelled herself as Phyllis, this series. The character has grown on me and her relationship with Barbara was precious. I hope we see romance blossom in the next series – or maybe at Christmas? A wee kiss under the mistletoe with a certain copper?

Happy Birthday Sister Monica Joan

Sister Monica Joan’s (Judy Parfitt) birthday celebrations were stunning. The video footage used which included Barbara was such a moving, beautiful tribute and it was great to see Trixie (Helen George) looking good! A more fitting close to the episode and series I couldn’t imagine. Re-visiting that carousel ride will stay with me for a long time to come.

…until Christmas!

It’s hard to believe that the next time we check in on our favourite characters will be after some turkey and Christmas pud – until then, let’s binge-watch series seven, and maybe the rest of the series before it too! Thanks for reading my episode reviews, I’ll aim to be back with my next Call The Midwife review as soon after Christmas Day as I possibly can.

Why not re-watch series 7 by purchasing it here:

Call The Midwide, Series Seven, Episode Six ~ Review

A little late with this review, what an episode of Call The Midwife it was though – I’ve had plenty of time to reflect upon the journey it took us on. Lulled into a false sense of security when Phyllis (Linda Bassett) was safe after the shop fire, only to be flung into a state of panic (well, I’m in a panic anyway!) about Barbara (Charlotte Ritchie) and her sudden illness – here are a handful of highlights from a busy instalment:

Eye’ll be seeing you

Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) is going ‘under the knife’ and she’s beside herself for more than one reason. Another patient in the ward is to chatty for her liking and her nerves are more than getting the better of her. Until after the event when her strength finds its way and she comes into her own again – marvellous scenes from such a talented actress.

Fire!

When there’s a fire in the local shop Barbara (Charlotte Ritchie) and Phyllis (Linda Bassett) are quick to dash in to wake the family who have newly moved in. Barbara escapes with every head in tow, except for Phyllis…

Fears for Phyllis

Was your heart in your mouth? Phyllis is one of my favourite characters and I was beside myself with worry! As was Barbara, the thought of her best friend being trapped in the burning building is one she’s not prepared to be faced with. However, its a happy ending when her friend emerges, fairly unscathed bar some smoke inhalation. Phew!

Barbara’s bug

Except phew isn’t the over-riding feeling for long when Barbara appears to have a flu bug and she’s tucked up in bed. This time it’s Phyllis’s turn to worry over her as she raises the alarm to Dr Turner (Stephen McGann) that Barbara has more than merely a cold. The stiff neck and inability to move her head is the first clue – something serious is going on! Noooooooooo!

June Watson

As a final note, I want to add what a great actress and a fantastic choice to play the fellow inpatient with Sister Monica Joan. She and Judy Parfitt played opposite each other deliciously in a masterclass de force. Glorious scenes. I saw June Watson in a play called Road at Royal Court Theatre, London – she was phenomenal and stole the show. If she could make a come back for Sister Monica Joan’s second eye operation, I’d be over the moon!!

Call The Midwife, Series Seven, Episode Five ~ Review

Call the Midwife – there’s always something to cry about, I say it every week and this episode was no different. Jam packed full of emotional exchanges and scenes so beautifully filmed that each one made an impact. Here’s my personal highlights of one of my favourite episodes to date:

Picnic Panic

Violet’s (Annabelle Apsion) planning a communal outing for a picnic and in her usual panic about getting everything just right. Thankfully it’s a great success and what a gorgeous setting it was too! I loved Fred (Cliff Parisi) putting the signage on the poster the wrong way up!

Small Pox (or is it?)

When Ade Babaaro (Jordan Peters) goes into hiding having been thrown off the boat he was working aboard, he’s quick to stop anybody from touching him in case he’s infecting them with Small Pox. When Reggie (Daniel Laurie) find him and decides to take pity on him, Fred and Violet are anxious in case he’s caught it. However, when Phyllis (Linda Bassett) draws Ade’s whereabouts out of Reggie, she soon discovers that the suspected Small Pox is Leprosy. Cue a mission to get the right help and a cure for the poor chap!

Tokophobia

Learning that fear of giving birth is called Tokophobia in one of the most harrowing yet exceptional scenes ever was one of the absolute highlights of the episodes for me. Brilliant, I can’t articulate it any clearer than that!

Seeing the light

Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) has her operation scheduled for her cataract removal, I can’t help but feel that this storyline will make for more tear-jerking moments yet. There’s nobody better than Judy Parfitt to carry this story, either.

Barbara’s Back!

Barbara’s (Charlotte Ritchie) back to stay! That made the episode complete for me, one of my favourite characters and Richie is an amazing actress. Exciting times!

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