Review: Shrek The Musical, York Stage Musicals, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at

THIS is York Stage Musicals’ biggest show to date, and not only because it features the big green ogre Shrek.

The reality is that no professional company could mount a production of Dreamworks’ Shrek The Musical at the Grand Opera House to match YSM’s numbers: a cast of 36, accompanied by an orchestra with 15 players under the musical direction of Stephen Hackshaw to facilitate using the fully orchestrated version of Jeanine Tesori and lyricist David Lindsay-Abaire’s score.

Everywhere you look, there is high quality. Hackshaw is working with producer Nik Briggs for the 13th year, handling that score’s myriad styles with aplomb. Briggs’s invitation to Damien Poole - newly back north in Boston Spa after a decade of West End credits - to direct and choreograph the show was an inspired choice. He responds with wit, swagger and equal emphasis on individual flair and ensemble panache in the big numbers.

Briggs himself has vacated his regular director’s seat to play his first musical theatre role in five years, and how enjoyable it is to see him in powerful voice and full of character as Shrek, his native North East accent making way for a Scottish one that more than matches Mike Myers in the film franchise.

He works wonderfully well with Jacqueline Bell’s Princess Fiona, who played a Diva in YSM’s Priscilla Queen of The Desert and now moves centre stage with bags of humour, dance moves and a knock-out singing voice. Her duet of burps and bottom burps with Briggs’s Shrek for I Think I Got You Beat is the show’s unbeatable comic highpoint.

Briggs’s double act with Chris Knight’s perennially enthusiastic Donkey is a joy too, as Donkey eases his way on to Shrek’s precious swamp, gliding around Shrek’s irascibility. His soul-singing voice is sweet, sweet, sweet too, and his scene with the Dragon guarding the tower-imprisoned Fiona brings particularly enthusiastic cheers. Emily Ramsden is on hot form as the Dragon’s diva voice.

No-one brings out the show’s humour better than Joe Wawrzyniak’s vainglorious Lord Farquaad, with his big ego compensating for his diminutive size, Wawrzyniak, on his knees with puppet legs that sometimes have a life of their own, uses arched eyebrows and an even more arch manner to the max. Villainy this much fun is usually the preserve of David Leonard in the Theatre Royal pantomime, and there is no higher praise.

The Fairy Tale Cast do much more than play second fiddle, in particular Sam Rippon’s Pinocchio and Alicia Roberts as the Sugarplum Fairy and voice and puppeteer for Gingey, showing off her dextrous voice.

High-quality performances, musicianship and choreography are matched by the all-important dramatic, fairy-world set designs by UK Productions and fabulous costumes by Charades Theatrical Costume, lighting design by Magnus Leslie and sound design by Alistair Penman. The dragon puppetry is on fire and Briggs’s prosthetics for Shrek’s head have West End stamped all over them.

This is a big bright beautiful world of a monster hit show that ends with everyone on their feet for Neil Diamond’s fairy-tale Monkees’ classic I’m A Believer. Love is out to get you; Shrek, Fiona and all who venture into the Grand Opera House.

Charles Hutchinson