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Review of ‘Into The Woods’

By Matt Sharp

It’s difficult to know where to start when constructing a review to fully appreciate the hard work, commitment and all-round amazement of over 30 members of the cast and crew in an 800-word document. In short, this performance was a stunning, well-constructed piece of Musical Theatre, which everyone involved should feel unmentionable pride in. I urge the entire company, cast and crew to know that you were phenomenal.

Here at Bromley Little Theatre we are renowned for producing high-quality stage drama, so in one of these infrequent but still welcome steps into this musical world, it does nothing but add to the amount of talent and skill we have at our disposal.

From just entering the auditorium as an audience member, we were already transfixed by a grand set, designed by Tony Jenner and built with support from various cast and resident BLT builders. The versatility and constructive ways to use the space of our stage never ceases to amaze. The additions of a ramp, as well as a working swing only added to the spectacle.

The lighting rig was certainly pushed to the maximum here, and Emma Christmas (as always) gave us a feast for the eyes with a grand mixture of colour and special effects to send us through this journey.

The main stumbling block for producing musical theatre in such a tight space is where to put the orchestra. This was solved by a decision to include not a mere backing track but a manually computerised orchestra, manhandled with ease by Dave Jones.

So much for the lights, set, sound…all we need are some actors to perform with them. Playing roles from a variety of familiar folk and fairy tales, all in search of their ‘happily ever after’.

From Cinderella, played by Bethan Boxall, who sported her expansive vocal abilities as well as her usual high standard of acting in what I know was a dream role for her, to Red Riding Hood; a part in which Jess Jenner gave us a combination of young and naive mixed in with a no-nonsense “let’s crack on with it” feel to her characterisation. From Jack (and the beanstalk) that Dan Ryan brought to life with the desperation and yet “Jack the Lad” mentality that we all remember from the stories, to Rapunzel, played by Sophie Gissing who was all but mute in Act 1, but for that catchy tune she nailed every time.

All the characters were there, searching for their ‘happily ever afters’. We followed the protagonists of the Baker and his Wife, (Chris DePrury and Kate Drakard), trying to gather items for the “Evil Witch”, played by Claire Kingshott who gave us a varied performance with her darker side in Act 1 to a much more glamorous Act 2.  Drakard, combining the roles of a leading lady with also being the Musical Director gave a grand debut performance at BLT, not helped by the additional stress of being onstage with a cast you’ve directed for said production.  Chris DePrury guided us through the journey with a strong performance. I also have to mention a confident appearance from Josh Williams Ward as the narrator, who led the show.  Josh is a great young actor with a big future ahead of him.

You cannot review this production without giving big ‘props’ to Howie Ripley and Max Pritchard for their interpretations of the two dashing princes.  Howie, combining this role with a hysterical Eastern European wolf from Little Red Riding Hood, brought his typical high-octane energy to the show, while Max showed us you cannot judge a book by its cover by delivering the voice of an angel from his exterior of a demon.  The chemistry between these two was undeniably on-point.

Special mentions definitely also go to Stevie Hughes’ show-stealing deadpan cow, along with a stunning appearance from Jaimi Keemer and Claire Darlington as the ugly stepsisters, not forgetting Jess Vautier’s furious-looking golden harp, as well as an ensemble of many bright and beautiful characters who effortlessly guided us through a fairytale land and off into the woods.  I truly wish I could write paragraphs about all of you, but I’m running out of space.

‘Into the Woods’ was a flawless production, the reward of six months of hard work from the cast, the crew and our directors/choreographer.  Pauline Armour took on this production – a show that we learned from her notes she didn’t really know that well – and made it her own.  The idea to set the play with an almost futuristic and industrial feel really added to the effect that we as audience felt.