Keeley Rodgers leaves Milton Keynes Theatre with an aching face after seeing Shrek the Musical. 

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect heading into the theatre to see the opening night of Milton Keynes’ run of the UK tour of Shrek. There were murmurs of ‘but how are they going to recreate it all on the stage’ and plenty of audience members, young and old, donning the iconic green ears. 

Our introduction to Antony Lawrence’s (The Lion King, Mary Poppins) Shrek and his ‘homely’ swamp in the woods set the scene for the evening, preceded by two and a half hours of uplifting, energetic and hilarious performances. 

Leave your troubles Far Far Away when heading to the theatre for this performance.

With a cast of 25, there is lots of movement throughout the show and always much to take in, especially the encounter with the fairytale creatures banished from Lord Farquaad’s town of Duloc.

Shrek The Musical, UK Tour

Source: Marc Brenner

Joanne Clifton’s Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical is feisty and funny. 

The characters and scenes change seamlessly which is particularly impressive when you admire the many intricate costumes and established set designs. There is a clever use of screens, projections and effects as you are invited on the journey with Shrek and his sidekick Donkey (Brandon Lee Sears) through the woods, to Duloc and then on their quest to rescue Princess Fiona (Joanne Clifton) from the dragon-guarded, lava-protected castle. 

Strictly star and Princess Fiona in Shrek, Joanne Clifton

Read our interview with Strictly star Joanne Clifton about her transformation into Princess Fiona, her love of jigsaw puzzles and more here

“In the audition, I said… here’s the thing: I’m from Grimsby, I find trumping really funny. This is why I relate to Princess Fiona.”

The scene with the dragon was a particular highlight; I won’t give it away but let’s just say it’s not quite the dragon you expect to encounter (pink sequins anyone?) and is a captivating performance with outstanding vocals by Cherece Richards. 

Brandon Lee Sears (Donkey) and Antony Lawrence (Shrek) in Shrek the Musical UK and Ireland Tour 2023-24.

Source: Marc Brenner

Brandon Lee Sears (Donkey) and Antony Lawrence (Shrek) deliver outstanding performances throughout the show. 

Anthony Lawrence has a great ogre-style presence and (green) hats off to him - the transformation each night must be quite a feat. Joanne Clifton’s Princess Fiona is a delight to see come to life; she is feisty and hilarious, particularly when switching from traditional ‘princess’ behaviour and speech to her real identity, which yes, does involve plenty of farting and burping! 

A special mention for Brandon Lee Sears who was the stand-out for me. His Donkey is sassy and funny, he oozes charisma and rhythm, as well as showing a softer, vulnerable side. 

In fact, it’s a great cast all-round and I haven’t even mentioned the tap-dancing rats!

The cast of Shrek the Musical UK and Ireland Tour.

Source: Marc Brenner

The costumes and set are wonderfully colourful and intricate.

Lord Farquaad (James Gillan) is the perfect evil villain complete with cringey hair swishes and comic vocals and if you are wondering whether Gingy (the Gingerbread man from the film) makes an appearance, you won’t be disappointed! 

Re-imagined from the Broadway and West End shows by the producers of Hairspray and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the touring production of Shrek has everything you could want from a musical. A heart-warming story, heaps of fun, lots of belly laughs and an important message of acceptance that ‘beautiful ain’t always pretty’.

So, leave your troubles Far Far Away when heading to the theatre for this performance and as Joanne Clifton (Princess Fiona) shared with us, leave with aching faces from smiling and warm hearts. 

We saw Shrek at Milton Keynes Theatre on Tuesday 27th February. The tour is running until 31st August, 2024. The show arrives at the Eventim Apollo in London on 19th July for a six-week run. See more information and book tickets here.