Into the Woods
23rd May 2013
St Andrew's Church, Luton
Type of Production
Author: Nova Horley
I must start by saying that I am not a Sondheim fan, do not like Into the Woods as a show, but can appreciate the performances and in particular the stunning technical accomplishment to the production we saw.
The setting was spectacular, perhaps a little too large in some ways, but in the main it worked really well, and gave the cast plenty of levels to work on. The lighting enhanced and created some wonderful effects throughout, the only small issue on the technical side was the occasional sound problem.
Beth Thomas had a very good sounding band – a little too loud in some places but very melodic, within the confines of Sondheim’s music. Beth had also got the cast to bring some expression and meaning into sometimes rather crazy musical interludes! I particularly liked the accompaniment for ‘Agony’.
Alistair Brown is another of those insightful director’s who breathes innovation into everything he does, and the whole experience, whilst not to my musical taste, gave us interest and spectacle.
Lynette Driver’s choreography was entirely in keeping with the feel of the piece, and used the cast and their abilities to the full.
I loved the way Kat Knight gave the cow a life and expression of its own – very cleverly done, and the beanstalk was very well thought out.
Grandmother’s bed was another inventive prop, which worked so well, and added some humour to this rather dark fairy tale.
Adam Butcher and Andy Whalley as the contrasting Brothers Grimm, held the action together well, and Adam also gave us a rather camp Prince’s Steward, which was fun.
I liked David Mills interpretation of the Wolf, he leered at Red Riding Hood very nicely, and David was also a very charming Prince for Cinderella. Andy Sizmur played Rapunzel’s Prince, and the two created some good musical moments.
Cinderella was played by Hayley Vaughan. Hayley has a pure tone to her voice, but needed a little more energy in her acting. Her Stepmother and Stepsisters, played by Amy Hansford, Sadie McGreevy and Stephanie Overington were all nicely evil – loved the eyes and they way they coped with blindness! I felt the Stepsisters could have been a little more extravagantly dressed to create the contrast between them and the other characters.
Jenna Ryder-Oliver was a very strong Witch, I liked the contrasts in light and shade she put into her musical numbers, and also in the change between the evil Witch and her counterpart. Last Midnight was very atmospheric.
Jamie Pritchard did well as Jack, I liked Giants in the Sky, thought it particularly suited his voice, a difficult part but he did well.
Emma Orr portrayed the slightly dim rather sly Little Red Ridinghood very well, good facial expression and very clear speech and song. I liked the antithesis to the word ‘little’ with the eating of the cakes, but would have liked to have seen it carried through all the way, rounding off of the character.
Frances Hall gave the Baker’s Wife good depth, and sang it beautifully, I liked the flirtiness of her relationship with the Prince.
John O’Leary got good characterisation as the Baker, although I felt he didn’t always carry it through, but a big and very different part for him.
Jo Harris as Rapunzel accomplished her rather wailing music well, very tuneful . Jan Robinson as Jack’s Mum was a very down-to-earth character, with Ciara McLoughlin, Kat Knight and Valerie Mills bringing much to the production with their portrayals of other characters.
The Company numbers were good, and there were some interesting harmonies, which gave the music life. I felt the bows could have been a little more imaginative with all that lovely scenery to be creative on.
There is always something special about a production in St Andrew’s church, it has an atmosphere and ambience all its own, and overall I was impressed with the technical side and the performances, but not entirely with the show as such.