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I wondered if Into the Woods might be a bit ambitious for PBGS, as it is so totally different to G&S – but overall I think they pulled it off.

I found it was enjoyable, with lots of humour brought out – and because it was pared back to be fairly simplistic, it worked, and was well within their capabilities.

Director Richard Syms had kept it relatively simple, because the music itself is not easy, and that coupled with the reversible trollies for the houses and the wood, kept the flow of action.  I loved the shadow of the Giant cast across the stage and then on the back wall – a menacing feeling.

The configuration of the band was fine – the keyboard and percussion being the most prominent –Margaret Johnson had done a sterling job with the cast to get them au fait with the music, and the keyboard player needs special mention, as it was a full on job for him – which he achieved well.

Costumes were good – this has become something that I look forward to for a PBGS show, as they are always colourful, and good-looking.  I loved Red Riding Hood’s dress, slightly different to the norm and absolutely lovely.

The use of a mask by the Witch was a clever ruse, as it was easily disposed of during the transformation, but didn’t restrict facial movement too much.

I loved the effect of the lighting for the woods, however the spotlights were confusing when the whole cast were on and delivering lots of short lines - something simpler might have been easier on the eye and senses.

Alice Bridges gave us a lovely Cinderella – well-sung with lots of expression.  Her stepmother and ugly sisters were very nicely played by Sue Kennedy, Nicole Santelmann and Catherine Harvey – they got the right amount of nastiness to contrast with Cinderella’s inherent goodness, with Rob Jones as the poor down-trodden Father.  A nice three-dimensional family group.

I thought the two Princes, Richard Fraser and Tim Hobman could have been a little more swash-buckling – as it would have created another dimension of amusement, but that said they both gave good performances, and certainly cut a dash!

Alison Gibbs was Rapunzel – plenty of slightly’ dumb blonde’ looks when she was up in the tower, but she came to life later in the production when released from the tower, and gave as good as she got!  Well done.

Sue Wookey always gives a good performance, and although there wasn’t much for her to do singing-wise, her portrayal as Jack’s mother was well executed.  Jack, as played by Shayn Dickens was suitably dim, but showed a very good singing voice and I liked his relationship with the cow!!

The use of stilts for the front legs of the cow meant Jess Zimmerman had much more movement than would normally be available.  She looked very sad – nicely done.

Graham Breeze always creates a good character, combined with a crisp voice that lent itself well to the Baker.  I liked his relationship with Zoe Jasko as his wife – who also gave us a strong character with plenty of expression.

Paula Fraser came up trumps as the Witch – very evil and then just conniving once she was transformed.  Lots of difficult phrasing and note configuration, but she did it really well, and created a real contrast to the other more normal fairy tale characters.

I liked the gauze covering the opening in the tree as a frame for Cinderella’s Mother, sympathetically played by Ketina Orriss, and the Baker’s Wife at the end – it created an other-worldly quality.

Clive Wheeler was a very full-on Steward, which he really took on whole-heartedly.

Rhiannon Gibbs played Red Riding Hood – a nice part for a younger person.  She got the marked change between the sweet girl, to the more feisty young lady, with her knife!  Valmais Guess had the small but crucial part as Red’s Granny.

Kushil Dep was a great Wolf – he was sly and suggestive, without being too sleazy, as he injected humour into the words – I really liked what he did with the part.

Barny Shergold created a quirky character as the Mysterious Man, it could have been a rather dull part, but I thought Barny gave it a lot of interest.

So, in conclusion – I’m normally not a fan of Into the Woods, but found this a clear and precise production, with some genuinely funny moments and thought the cast did very well with a difficult show.

Putteridge Bury Gilbert & Sullivan Society

“INTO THE WOODS” review date: 8th Oct 2014

Queen Mother Theatre, Hitchin

Director:  Richard Syms MD: Margaret Johnson


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