REVIEW - Well worth a trip Into the Woods at Birmingham's Crescent Theatre - The Bromsgrove Standard

REVIEW - Well worth a trip Into the Woods at Birmingham's Crescent Theatre

Bromsgrove Editorial 1st May, 2023 Updated: 2nd May, 2023   0

THE CRESCENT’S main house production of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods was the third musical I reviewed in the past week and undoubtedly the best.

As the Crescent Company only tends to perform one musical a year, I was pleased to see them being adventurous and tackling Sondheim’s tongue-twisting, complicated, fairytale-screw-up of a show.

If you’re a newbie to the plot – Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack of the beanstalk fame and the Bakers of Sourdough cottage all go into the woods and get their stories mixed up like a bag of licorice allsorts.

Come the interval everything has come untangled and our fairytale folk are all set to live happily ever after – except they don’t – the late great Mr SS with his music and lyrics  and book writer James Lapine decide to discombobulate everything by doing it all again –  to unravel the consequences of wishes getting granted




It’s a long show even by the maestro’s standards and even with a pace to grace the Derby instilled on the company by director Keith Harris, it’s still a three-hour (including interval) gig.

Happily it’s a joy not an endurance test with a marvellous company making top rate theatre.


Harris, along with Colin Judges, are the undisputed titans of design at the Crescent – here they have combined their talents to produce a stunner of a set. The woods we go into are dark, dense and mysterious with trees that move and a mini revolve that deftly transports the action to the giant’s kingdom and much more.

James Booth gives us some of the best lighting I’ve seen at the Crescent with long piercing, rifle sight sharp probing lasers, accent lighting, aerial gobos and even the occasional blue not black out – all snuggly ensconced in a constant smoky haze to make the mornings misty and the evenings haunting.

Sound designer Kristan Webb struggles with the balance at times. In fairness mic’ing a large cast is a difficult task and you need to be an octopus on the buttons – but audio errors are, sadly, unforgiving.

The orchestra under conductor and musical director Gary Spruce tackle the difficult score with confidence and gusto – sweet music making indeed.

From Phil Rea plowing a lone furrow as the narrator to Rachael Maltby  proving you can still steal the scene in a cameo role if you take no prisoners, this cast bring home the bacon.

Tiffany Cawthorne is always watchable and as the Baker’s Wife she delivers character dynamics beyond the text and combines that with powerful vocals.

Hannah Lyons makes a feisty and endearing Red Riding Hood and Hannah Devereux is deliciously annoying as Rapunzel.

Helena Stanway gives us a Cinderella for today that deals quite well with her not so ugly and very tuneful sisters Florinda and Lucinda, (Joanne Brookes and Becky Johnson) plus her simply horrid step-mum captured perfectly by Jaz Davison.

Steph Urquhart makes a lovely long suffering young mum for Jack and Mark Payne’s Baker is heart-wrenching as he tries to do the best for his little family; Jack Kirby and Robbie Love cut the mustard as the Steward and Cinderella’s dad respectively, whilst stalwart Dave Rodgers brings stage elegance and experience to the role of the Mysterious Man.

Alisdair Hurst does a notable double as Cinderella’s prince and the wicked wolf whilst Mark Horne gives good value as always as Rapunzel’s Prince.

Luke Plimmer is an actor that brings depth and integrity to every role I see him do.  His journey as the hapless Jack is believable and endearing.

Kimberley Maynard’s wiitch is a tour-de-force – bravo to you on giving us the complete performance, indeed magical in every sense of the word.

We even got a bonus with Crescent old girl – now soul superstar – Ruby Turner voicing the giant.

Congratulations to Harris and his all stars on one of the best outings from the Crescent this season, – a feisty – full-blooded fairytale and a bostin’ trip into the woods, say I.

Into the Woods runs at The Crescent until Saturday, May 6. Click here for times, tickets and more information.

 

*****

 

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

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