The Baker's Wife

Date 7th April 2022
Society Littlehampton Players Operatic Society
Venue Windmill Theatre, Littlehampton
Type of Production Musical
Director/Choreographer Tony Bright
Musical Director Daniel Paine

Report

Author: Keith Smithers

The Baker’s wife (La Femme du Boulanger by Jean Giono and the film by Marcel Pagnol) has been in existance in some form since 1932. After several false starts since then, Stephen Schwarz and Joseph Stein produced this adaptation and again it failed to take on big time - not like Schwarz’s other creations, Wicked and Godspell .  Over the last twenty years it has become a lot more popular and I, for one, never realised that such a musical gem was out there. Littlehampton Players Operatic Society performed this production so very well and brought out all the humour and pathos in the story. The musical direction was under Daniel Paine and the cast sang all the songs with great confidence. They were accompanied by the six-piece band that, like the singers, followed the change of tempo and moods of the music to precision. This was a brilliant show enacted by a talented company.

The baker, Aimable Castagnet (Simon Jones)  and his wife, Geneviève  (Grace Upcraft), on stage for a large percentage of the show, were very believable and sang their solos beautifully an with much conviction. Dominique (David Upcraft) , the man who Geneviève ran away with, also had a extremely well-sung solo. The rest of the cast were all villagers of Concorde and every single one of them had a small or medium-size cameo part. The café owner (David Martin) and his wife Denise (Gudrun Lehmann-Shanks) were arguing from beginning to end. Denise opened the show with a wonderful solo and a further reprise later. Doumergue and Claude (Mark Beauchamp and Richard Howell) were the beligerent neighbours who could not agree on anything whatsoever. Antoine and Barnaby (Simon Smith and Richard Cooper) were another pair who could not bear to be in the same room as one another and Barnaby was also not experiencing bliss with his wife, Hortense (Sue Knight). More people not to like one another were the priest, M. le Curé (Graham Carton), who was trying to uphold moral standards, and the mayor, M. le Marquis (Stuart Box), who had just the opposite idea. M. Martine, the teacher (Sam Shanks), was another person who was able to upset others quite easily. There were another nine villagers and each one reacted to the progress of the story within their distinctive characterisation. Sound effects and lighting were all precise and the open scene changes very quick and skilful. The choreography round the busy set and props was cleverly effected.  

The plot has a very happy ending with evryone who was not happy with life or aggrieved by others becoming totally satisfied with their lot.

Congratulations to director, musicians, cast and backstage crew for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. If I had had a free evening during the week, I would have gone to see this again.