Monday, 26 October 2015

"Into the Woods" Beeston Music Theatre Group
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.

Directed by Craig Butterworth with musical direction from Morven Harrison, this Sondheim musical has more interwoven tales than a multi-woven weavy thing.

If you've never seen this musical, and if not why not and where have you been? James Lapine, who wrote the book, took several fairy tale characters and gave them all a little story within a bigger story. It's as if there was a land where fairy tale characters live and this was a day in the life of, well three days in the lives of.

The baker and his wife want a baby but the wicked witch who lives next door had put a spell on them and only agrees to lift the spell if they bring her four things belonging to some of the other fairy tale characters, and the baker has to go into the woods to collect these four things. It's the story of this search which ends with the slaying of the giant at the top of the beanstalk's wife. It has a dark edge as some of the much loved characters die in the process.

The music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim and he is at his best with this musical as the complexity of his lyrics and key changes may be a singer/actor, and possible musical director's nightmare but when the cast are as good as this one, the results sound so good.

Now, I apologise if I don't mention all of the 29 strong cast. because they were all amazing. the slightly bigger cast gave the ensemble numbers a real wall of sound effect, so powerful.

Rob Charles played the baker. His voice has a deeper timbre for this role and even though there aren't really any featured rolls (sorry roles) in "Woods", Rob's character is one of the main reason for the storyline, making him the ideal leading man.

Cat Tuckey is the baker's wife, and another brilliant piece of casting as she has such a beautiful voice and is lovely as the loyal wife all the way to the end.

Jack, of the beanstalk fame, played by another well known face on the local theatre scene, George Lamb. Jack played with a local dialect which sounds good for a fairy story character. His naivety, Jack's that is, is rather touching but does he come out as our hero? Only one way to find out!! George is another one whose voice seems to have gone a bit deeper as well, again suiting the role, unless it's my ears! Oh. and I love the cow!

I loved the ballsiness of Little Red Riding Hood, played by Zoe Brinklow. Cinderella (Claire Rybicki) did get to the ball several times. The evil witch, which I know took some acting as she is absolutely lovely, bubbly and smiley in real life, played by Andrea Chapman.Loved the common touch of Jack's mum (Mina Machin) and nice to see a twist on the narrator, (Anna McAuley), by having the role as a young school girl and not an older man. This gives rise to the twist at the end, which I won't give away.

The two Princes were a scream, played delightfully over the top by Kevin Chatten and Tim Yearsley. Kev's prince very much along the lines of Hugh Laurie's The Prince Regent in "Blackadder". Their duet of "Agony" was anything but, agony that is, An absolute comic dream team.

I know it seems as if I love every character here, well maybe I do, but you can't beat a good baddie, well you can but that's another fairy tale, and Steph Gray-Blest as Cinderella's evil stepmother was fantastic (loved the costume and wig), Ronja Breitkopf (Florinda) and Keli Wain (Lucinda). I loved the comedy element the two sisters brought to the stage.

The big bad wolf was also a baddie with a seriously comical streak. Alex Grosse strangely looked the part without too much make up as well. The scene in the Grandmother's cottage was just brilliant. It was like panto had arrived early.

Beth Yearsley as Rapunzel got to show off her tonsils rather well also and a lovely pair she has, tonsils that is! The giant also was shown, but I won't give away how that was done.

As I said these are just a few of the standout performers out of a cast where they all worked their socks off to give an amazing consistently good performance, both acting wise and vocally.

Brilliant set spread over four levels of performance area and a backdrop which gave the effect of depth to the wood, designed by Craig Butterworth and Lisa Smith. Wonderfully evocative lighting design by Dave Martin and some fantastic costumes.

A 13 piece orchestra which at times did overpower some of the singers, but not enough for it to become a detractor to the show. A few sound issues which isn't something new for first nights and now they've shown their head, I've every confidence that the sound team will get sorted.

Another wonderful choice of work by a brilliantly hard working team who combine to produce an excellent night of top entertainment.

"Into The Woods" is on at The Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 31 October 2015. A great treat for all the family for Halloween.

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