Into the Woods
10th October 2017
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmundse
Type of Production
Heather Couch & Emma Rutherford
Author: Julie Petrucci
This Stephen Sondheim musical is a challenge given its complexity and the number of characters; nevertheless, Bury St Edmunds Operatic managed to produce a great version of this show.
The impact of the set as one entered the auditorium was striking. The scenery was quite simply outstanding, very cleverly designed and beautifully executed; fully deserved congratulations to designer Jamie Maguire and his trio of set builders. Complimenting the excellent set was an imaginative lighting plot that gave us atmosphere and some intense moments to match the mood of the show. The costumes too were superb each reflecting the characters well.
For those not familiar with the show it could have been said that it was all over by the end of the first half. Of course, this is the skill of the story telling, as the second half was all about what happens after ‘happy ever after’ and it is not a pretty sight! Director Jamie Maguire brought the two vastly different halves together nicely.
A difficult sing, but everyone gave it their all. Musical Director Vicky Calver clearly worked very hard to get the cast to such a high standard of singing. Sondheim’s music is notoriously difficult to sing but, as far as I could tell, they didn’t get a note out of place. The band sounded great throughout – although sometimes I found them a little loud, or that the mics could have been turned up to hear everything being sung. With Sondheim being so ‘wordy’ it’s really crucial that we are able to hear all the words and sometimes I missed them a bit.
Plaudits must go to Choreographer, Heather Couch on the beautiful movement created for the Trees depicted by Heather herself, Emma Rutherford, Mia Resnick, Clare Robinson, Diane Elvin and Fiona Barker. This was an ingenious touch and worked splendidly.
There were some great characterisations as well as superb vocals from the large cast.
Emma Bowles led the show with a lovely performance as the Baker’s Wife. She was on stage for a very large part of the show and she personally had a number of songs to sing, which she did really well. Ben Musgrove as the Baker gave an excellent interpretation of the role, with just the right level of diffidence and apparent lack of courage. The relationship between the two was charming and believable.
Trenetta Jones made an excellent witch, she took command of the stage and performed well, although when she lost her power and became normal, I felt she lost a little of her energy and stage presence (which may be in the writing) - luckily she was still a strong performer with an amazing voice. There were some nice moments with Rapunzel played by Katy Cocks.
Lindsay Miller did a great job as the feisty Little Red Riding Hood, whilst Cinderella, played by Cara Singleton was elegant and strong with a great singing voice. Both her evil stepsisters (played by Cally Butterworth and Abigail Laker), were suitably crass; and worked well with Lou Petch as Cinderella’s Stepmother.
The Princes were both clearly making the most of their roles, particularly in Agony! I really enjoyed Rapunzel’s Prince (Joseph Hall) and his need to compare himself to Prince ‘Charming’ played by Fraser Simpson who we found out is clearly lacking in charm in this role! Fraser also doubled as Wolf 2. Max Cunnell was excellent as Jack, a really likeable performance and good interaction with the rest of the cast - particularly Milky White (Jackie Strahm). Kate Steggles, as Jack’s mother, gave a genuine performance, clearly caring about Jack and being frustrated by his actions. Great voice too.
Excellent support was given by characters in the more minor roles who all played their parts perfectly. Will Meyer (the Narrator), Adam Stewart (Steward & Cinderella’s Father), Jamie Maguire (Mysterious Man), Heather Couch (Cinderella’s ‘dead’ mother and a Little Pig), Diane Elvin (Granny), Fiona Barker (the Giant - impressive costume!) with Emma Rutherford and Mia Resnick as Sleeping Beauty and Snow White respectively and also Little Pigs. Super impressed by the voice of Mattison Williams as the Wolf (doubling as the Golden Harp).
Overall a tough show to produce but, despite a few first night blips, BSEAODS managed to deliver. The direction was good with some great use of the various levels. The Production Team of Jamie Maguire, Vicky Calver, Heather Couch and Emma Rutherford brought together a multi-talented and experienced cast to provide a high quality production in all aspects.