28 May

Stephen Sondheim has contributed an enormous amount of delight among lovers of musical theatre, and many of those involved in this production are members of the Stephen Sondheim Society.
The play begins like a regular fairy story with well known characters wishing for things to happen in their lives. Cinderella is sweetly played and sung by Abigail Carter Simpson; Mary Lincoln, Macy Cherrett and Francesca Pim play her villainous step family; Red Riding Hood, a greedy little girl on her way to Grandmother is pursued by a Wolf who desires her for dinner, but first he has to gobble up Granny. Florence Odumoso has a terrific voice. We are relieved when she escapes the wolf’s belly. Jack (Jamie O’Donnell) sells his cow for beans, climbs the beanstalk and kills the giant making him and his mother seriously rich.. Rapunzel lets down her hair to the wrong person and finishes up with twins.
The main plot of Act one revolves round the Baker and his wife who are unable to have children. They meet Rapunzel’s mum – a witch – who tells them to find four objects in order to get their wish. A Gold Slipper, a lock of hair, a red cloak and a cow as white as milk. All possessions of the previously named fairy book characters.
.There are many comedy items in the story =- Jack’s mother is played by Madelaine MacMahon with a strong Scottish accent not completely understandable, but she has a funny attitude.
But mainly it is the music that resonates and Aaron Clingham has done a wonderful job orchestrating the score with just five musicians.. The opening is particularly satisfying emotionally as all the characters sing about what they are wanting from life in a stunning anthem of beautifully blended sound.
One of the essential elements in the story is the narration by Jordan Michael Todd which he performs with charm and enormously good humour..
Tim McArthur who already directed the show in a previous incarnation has done a great job and added to his worries by appearing as The Baker along with Jo Wickham as his wife. They are both strong characaters and work well together.
Joana Dias has designed a set made mostly out of ladders and crates of varying sizes with Vittorio Verta giving us a fairy take feeling with the lighting. I was not sure about the costumes. I really wanted fairy tale characters to have more fairy tale costumes. I was never quite sure what Stewart Charlesworth had in mind with the strange mixture of styles.
For those who’ve never seen it before It is a long night out, chock full of surprises.

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