Last week saw SMTC take to the stage of the Stratford ArtsHouse once more with their rendition of Sondheim and Lapine’s Into The Woods. This production is almost feared throughout the world of musical theatre due to its demanding and challenging score, though also loved for its amalgamation of Fairy Tale themes and characters throughout. So, imagine the surprise when the audience were immediately thrust into the heart of a refugee camp; a set very cleverly built by local artist Chris Johns.
Director, Richard Sandle-Keys made the brave decision to turn this well-known tale on its head and draw upon the parallels to the world we live in today; a decision that more than paid off. Villages wiped out, children becoming orphans, chaos everywhere, ‘Giants’ leaving a path of destruction, sound familiar?
Of course, the show wouldn’t have been such a success without its stars and there are many worthy of note. Tim Shackley narrated throughout and kept viewers engaged with his comic and light demeanour. Christopher Dobson stepped into the childless Baker’s character with ease, his voice and acting talent projecting emotion into the hearts of all those in witness. Bardia Ghazelbash provided a silky, husky voice and slick movement to the Wolf. David Bolter and Daniel Denton-Harris admirably played the roles of the Princes, with their performance of Agony being quite the show-stopper.
It must be said though; the show was certainly stolen by its female counterparts! Firstly, Samantha Brown and Charlie Vaughan were the puppeteers behind the infamous Milky-White; their movement on stage and facial expressions cleverly brought to life (yet another) wonderful piece of metal artwork. Judi Walton, no stranger to the stage, portrayed Jack’s mother with flare and know-how. Rapunzel is perhaps one of the lesser characters in this story, though that didn’t reflect in Rachel Connell’s strong portrayal. Georgie Wood took on the tasking role of Jack, her confident presence brought volumes of endearment to the whole performance. Pollyanna Noonan’s portrayal of Little Red Riding Hood was the perfect combination of charm and daring. Karen Welsh as the Witch gave a notorious performance; striking, comical and sultry. Jessica Friend soundly stepped into the role of the Baker’s Wife, delivering a performance worthy of high merit and praise. Finally, Rebecca Walton’s Cinderella was both memorable and moving; a truly flawless deliverance.
All of this was rounded out by impeccable singing talent from all those mentioned and more; the harmonies, power, and tone to all the voices on stage was an absolute marvel; accompanied by the talents of the orchestra under the remarkable direction of Sam Young.
What SMTC achieved with this production left audiences speechless and moved, receiving a standing ovation seemed only fitting upon its end; perhaps it is safe to say that they certainly left happy…ever after.
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