It was an unexpectedly thrilling moment when HRH Prince Charles (P Chilly) took his spot in the royal box above my head at the Royal Gala premiere for Shrek the Musical.
After a surprise intro from actor Adrian Lester, and just before the curtain went up, there was a ripple of cheers and waves as the Prince arrived.
I had to scuttle along the row to catch a glimpse of grey hair, royal wave and slightly cheeky grin before the lights went down and our gaze turned back towards the stage.
Babes about Town was invited to the Shrek premiere, held last week to support the Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts which aims to provide access to the arts for disadvantaged children across the UK.
Shrek the Musical opened yesterday, after its Tony-nominated run in the US where it was described by the New York Times as ‘true happiness’.
The story’s familiar to anyone who’s seen at least Part 1 of the multi-billion dollar franchise: a lonely but likeable ogre is sent on a quest to rescue a Princess in return for getting his swamp back from a rag-tag bunch of storybook squatters (e.g. Pinocchio, Three Little Pigs and Humpty Dumpty).
But things are never what they seem in this twisted fairytale that puts the fun in dysfunctional.
Playing Shrek, Nigel Lindsay’s one of those actors that makes you go ‘who?’ at first and then ‘oh yeah, I know him’ when you see his face. Lindsay’s got theatre credits as long as your arm. In fat suit and prosthetics he literally takes ‘ogre’ the stage.
Britain’s Got Talent buzzer-pusher Amanda Holden is famous for judging wannabes, but what anyone wants to know is, does she have any chops herself? Turns out she’s got an impressive vocal range, natural stage presence and great comic timing. I was skeptical, but she really pulled off the part of feisty (and flatulent) Princess/ogress Fiona.
As the talking donkey, Richard Blackwood’s got some pretty big hooves to fill and at first he does come over as a sort of Eddie Murphy lite. But he soon sinks his teeth (and ass) into the role with enough physical comedy and warmth to create a loveable sidekick.
There’s some standout support, notably young Fiona, Gingerbread Man, Pinocchio and the stunning Dragon (also a spectacular feat of puppetry).
But it’s Nigel Harman (Dennis off Eastenders) as the piddly Lord Farquaad, whose physically challenging and thigh-slappingly funny act blows everyone off the stage.
I went to see Shrek with my brother and we spent the entire two hours grinning or snorting like fools. It was an evening performance or I would have enjoyed taking my 5-year-old and watching him crease with laughter.
There’s an element of panto that only adds to the fun, along with some rousing musical numbers. The show-stopping ‘Let Your Freak Flag Fly’ sums up the core message: celebrate yourself, no matter how weird you look or feel, it’s cool to be ‘different’.
It’s an inspirational theme to a feel-good show that will appeal to old and young. Especially if you like fart jokes.
‘My kids are over the moon, I’ve got two little girls. And as I walk into the playground I can hear the other girls say; ‘Here comes Shrek.’ And that’s before I’ve even put the make-up on.’
Amanda Holden (Princess Fiona)
‘My daughter Lexi (5) is beside herself that I’m a princess. Also (as an ogre) I’m wearing a prosthetic nose, ears and I’m going to be painted green and I will be farting at will. To be honest, that’s how I look most Sundays, after a big night out.’
Nigel Harman (Lord Farquaad)
‘I don’t see Farquaad in baddie-goodie terms, he’s just a bit misguided. Ultimately his mother died, he was abandoned by his father and he wants to become king. It sounds like a Shakespearean character. Instead it’s Lord Farquaad in Shrek.’
Richard Blackwood (Donkey)
‘I would say to the kids out there, don’t use your circumstances right now as an excuse not to achieve. However much you act like you want to be from the hood, you don’t want to stay there. So use where you come from as your motivation to get out.’
Shrek the Musical is playing at Theatre Royal Drury Lane (Covent Garden) for performances bookable until Feb 2012. The show is suitable for ages 4+.