INTO THE WOODSFirebirds at the Brentwood Theatre
Into The Woods with Firebirds and Sondheim – an up-close and magical production on the intimate Brentwood stage.
The creative team behind last year's Secret Garden triumphantly enter the more challenging world of Sondheim's tricky tunes, witty lyrics and twisted fairy tales.
The classic quality of the show is only one of the key ingredients here. Production values are high: the costumes, the band and the set, which cleverly uses minimal detail for Cinders' hearth, Rapunzel's tower, Jack's cottage, the baker's shop, where rolls and baguettes give way in Act Two to diapers and bootees.
On opening night, an otherwise polished show was tarnished slightly by persistent problems with sound – very difficult to run the mixer desk from backstage, I imagine.
And of course the cast – excellent singing actors called for in this show. All the characters are wonderfully defined in Firebirds' strong, youthful company: the Baker's Wife [Fleur Sumption] and Little Red Riding Hood [Abbie Ward] both combine music and character to perfection. The Witch next door [Charlotte Rayner] and her adopted daughter Rapunzel [Kate Claussen] blend beautifully in duet, as do the two narcissistic Princes [Tom Carswell and Seb Mayo].
As often these days, the Narrator is a youngster [Theo Harris] – as well as an objective observer, he is also a scene-shifter, a dancer, a soloist in Ever After and a scapegoat sacrifice.
A deep, dark piece, with violent death and blindness prominent, Into The Woods is sensitively directed by Liz Gibson and Allen Clark. The Musical Director is Natalie Thurlow, and the Production Manager is Cathy Edkins who also appears as two mothers – Cinderella's from beyond the grave, and Jack's, despairing of her beanstalk boy [Jack Matthews].
Photograph: Seb Mayo's Cinderella Prince and Fleur Sumption's Baker's Wife.