HE’S big, he’s green, he’s certainly enormous fun…but how do you bring something new to something as famous and familiar as Shrek?
To be more precise, that’s Shrek the Musical, the live stage version of the Hollywood animation hit about a grumpy but surprisingly sympathetic troll and his adventures with a talking donkey and a princess with a secret.
STOS Musical Theatre Company are presenting the regional amateur premiere of the show at Sheffield’s Lyceum from November 12 to 16 and are promising audience everything they expect, from spectacular dragons to magical transformations.
Yet Mark Feakins, the man directing the show, is best known for presenting shows like Made in Dagenham and Jekyll and Hyde where it might be best to describe the style as stripped back or minimalist – not the stuff that fairy tale extravaganzas are made of.
“Well, you can’t approach a show like Shrek the Musical with a blanket and a bench!” Mark laughs.
“It’s got to be full on, full scale, a spectacular production with all the things that people who are familiar with the original and remember expect to see.”
He points out, though, that beneath the spectacle, there is also a fascinating, funny and even moving story that he hopes he will be able to bring to the surface.
“When you think about it, what you actually have is a story about two kids who are sent away by their parents, one to love alone in a swamp and the other to live in a tower,” he says.
“And they both discover the world and friendship and each other through their adventures and discover also that it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, you can still be beautiful.
“You could say that all the characters are odd balls of course and they are rather odd but you also love them.”
“Then of course there are so many levels of humour, things for the parents and for the kids.
“There are lots of references in the movie to lots of Disney and all that stuff and in the show there are also lots of references to other musicals which I think people will find very enjoyable.”
Mark also thinks that audience members who are familiar with the film but have not seen the stage show will be impressed by the addition of some effective songs.
“There are some heart felt ballads which you might not expect in a show like this but which really do make it a strong musical,” he says.
And even though it is a long way from his more stripped back style, he adds that he is thoroughly enjoying the experience of tackling a show that demands a real Wow factor.
“You do have the challenge of giving the audience visually what they expect,” he says.
“There are certain looks for certain characters that you have to deliver and effects that people expect to see but the challenge creatively is to give the audience a little bit more, to actually make them admit that they enjoyed it more than the film!
“Actually, on stage you can play with the characters a little bit more, so the audience gets to know them better and feel more for them and get that bit more from the story.”
And a production like this one from STOS has one extra thing that the professional tours doesn’t have – a suitably large cast
“This is one time when a company the size of STOS really can deliver,” Mark says.
“I would say we have a cast of nearly 50, while the professional touring version probably had around a dozen – in fact we probably have a bigger cast than in the West End even.”
Shrek The Musical is at the Lyceum from November 12 to 16. For tickets call 0114 249 6000 or visit sheffieldtheatres.co.uk