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Newbury Operatic Society - Into the Woods

2nd to 3rd July 2004.

This was the NWN review.

Sound bites

Newbury Operatic Society: Into The Woods, at The Corn Exchange, on Friday, July 2 and Saturday, July 3

Not being a Sondheim devotee, I took the precaution of taking one along with me, but the minute I heard those magic words 'Once upon a time...' I knew everything would be all right in the end.

The challenge of this production has to be that it doesn't have the great show-stopping numbers of, say, Carousel, and exposes every character and voice to public scrutiny.

Imaginatively staged, this show flowed effortlessly as we followed the fairytale folk on their various missions through a beautifully-lit wood. Complex? I'll say.

However, full marks to the NOS for stepping outside the usual musical fare of the tried-and-trusted and going for something really challenging.

A Cinderella that could sing ( Zoe Wells), a Red Riding Hood you half- hoped would be eaten (Jeanette Maskell) and a knockabout comedy duo in the shapes of the baker and his wife (Tony Randall and the gloriously expressive Sam Spaak) worked in and out of a supporting cast, with Stuart Buchan and Russell Barrett's voices working well in their duets as the two princes.

Sarah Scott gave the Witch a surprisingly human dimension, lifting her beyond the caricature of pantomime evil.

Sadly, some of the other supporting voices never made it over the pit containing the unsung heroes of the orchestra, but you could still get the gist of things. The Narrator, (Daniel Maskell) was right. It was magic.

A major technical fault caused by The Sound (The Corn Exchange) felled Act 2, although I do know that the Giant's voice worked well on other evenings, but the energy went and because the writer (him not me) was on a killing spree we had also lost the Baker's Wife and our Witch, who could have brought it all back up again.

This caused the finale to drift rather than romp with an over-long curtain call robbing the hardworking principal players of the roar they so richly deserved.

I remain unconverted, but (in 350 words) in awe of anyone who can sing, act, move and still hold an audience for this musical marathon.