GREEN – the new colour of Love!
“It’s a big bright beautiful world!”, as Jay Laga’aia belts out across the stage, along with pumping thumping brass horns – over the top of an enthusiastically-engaged audience. And that’s what Packemin Productions has delivered here – a big, bad, beautiful world. What has been achieved here with this musical, which is an adaptation of an adaptation (with many sequels to its name), is no mean feat…
Shrek began with the book by Willian Steig in the 90s, and was followed by the DreamWorks animation feature film, and feature film, and feature film, and feature film – which first kicked off in the early 2000s. Hugely popular – a juggernaut in the world of entertainment – and even generating a spin off film in Puss in Boots – one may be warranted in asking the question, “did this ‘product’ need another outing – another variation…?”
But, well, this time round, the answer would quite simply seem to be a resounding ‘Yes’.
At this performance attended, this production had a packed house – full to the brim in a 761-seater venue – and was drawing rousing cheers from the multiple generations of audience members that eagerly filled and lively energised the theatre space. People of all ages tapping to the tunes, laughing with the humour, and responding to the heartfelt emotions on display. A variety (show) ranging from stage moments of body-filled ensemble sequences that dazzle and delight, to duos of the intimate and comedic kind, to heartbreaking solos. Parramatta Riverside Theatre’s largest venue has rarely been utilised to such great spatial effect. A display of expert physical performances appropriately handling the vast expanse of the space, and a constantly shifting and changing set design to transport you from place to place – stage space to stage space – story point to story point – strikingly achieving the many magical realms that is required to construct such a large-scale fairy-tale world.
There are many an enjoyable performance – all on stage giving their all. Kudos to all.
Luke Joslin is particularly hilarious as Lord Farquaad – probably not to be unexpected. But it’s just so ridiculous – it’s just such a guilty pleasure – made even more so here by being live, in the flesh on stage, rather than in animation form. The many varied presentations of Farquaad’s diminutive stature are so very cleverly accomplished. Likewise, Farquuad’s ‘silver soldiers’ who periodically appear throughout, working in unison, present a really tight and enjoyable collective. But, ultimately, it truly is Jay’s show. A hard task at hand. A hard, ‘ugly’ task at hand. He is tackling such a well-known animated character, and under particularly heavy green ogre make-up and prosthetics, but Jay Laga’aia absolutely knocks it out of the park. Part Steig’s Shrek, part Mike Myer’s Shrek, part old-school geezer gangster a la UK actor, Ray Winstone. In the end though, it is ALL Laga’aia – all his own – all heart and pathos, and humanity. All there. Tender, and inexplicably moving.
The potency in this production undoubtedly lies in its impressive execution of lights and colour, and sound and movement, and song and energy. It’s only real deterrence may be its duration – perhaps a touch too long for the littler, younger ones in attendance. And it can get bogged down at times, trying to follow – chase! – the many threads that it is at the mercy of via the original source material. But, it’s through-line really is so strong – along with its performances, and its reverence. The main theme of Love gets delivered right to the heart – and, it beats mightily GREEN.
Oh! – and it’s over-all crowning glory just may be a musical number that is comprised of a simple Call & Answer between its two burgeoning lovers, Shrek (Laga’aia) and Princess Fiona (Mikayla Williams). This moment is pure stupidity, and fun & games, in all its…silly beauty, as we are treated to a most unique, romantic, flirtatious, extended call & answer which consists wonderfully, and accordingly, of… farts, and burps.
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