Shrek The Musical has finally arrived in Cardiff and, aptly enough for a show featuring a massive ogre, it already looks like a monster hit.
A packed audience greeted the West End show as it opened at the Wales Millennium Centre on Wednesday evening.
The Welsh premiere has been a long time coming, with the show previously having played on Broadway, toured more than a 100 cities in North America and appeared everywhere from China and Malaysia to Estonia.
But the big-budget production, which is the centrepiece of this year’s festive offerings at the WMC, proved well worth the wait.
Those familiar with the blockbuster Dreamworks movie will know it centres on the tale of the eponymous grumpy, lovelorn Shrek (played here by Dean Chisnall).
‘Packed with positive messages’
But his longed-for quiet life is shattered when the festering swamp he calls home is inundated by an irritating bunch of banished fairytale characters.
And so begins his quest, along with loyal sidekick Donkey (Idriss Kargbo), to rescue the beautiful (and feisty) Princess Fiona (Bronté Barbé) from a fire-breathing, love-sick dragon.
Like the movie it’s packed full of positive messages of acceptance (most obviously in the song Fly Your Freak Flag), tolerance and inner beauty in a much more knowing and less schmaltzy way than, say, Beauty and the Beast.
Of course, while music was important for the animated 2001 film (with turns from Eels, The Proclaimers, Rufus Wainwright and, um, Baha Men) this stage production really is an all-singing, all-dancing stage extravaganza featuring new songs as well as the show’s anthemic Monkees cover I’m a Believer.
Cynics might ask why there’s any need for a live musical comedy version of a blockbuster movie that has already spawned a lucrative franchise of three sequels and numerous short features.
But on the strength of the opening night, even the sternest doubters could well be joining in with that Monkees hit by the end.
Highlights of this musical comedy included the hilarious home grown (or should that be home not-so-grown?) comedy talent of diminutive baddie Lord Farquaad (Cardiff-born Gerard Carey), the fantastic puppetry – such as the huge red dragon that dominates the stage, or the cute pint-sized gingerbread man) – and a script that sizzles and zings along with enough wit and double-entendres to keep adults and children alike entertained. The two and a half hour show flies by to its heartening conclusion.
All in all it’s fairytale stuff – and if you don’t manage to bag a ticket for this festive cracker, you might just end up green… with envy.
Shrek The Musical runs until January 10 at the Wales Millennium Centre. Tickets cost from £19.50 to £58. There is no admission to under-2s. To find out more visit www.wmc.org.uk or phone the box office on 029 2063 6464