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June 7, 2017
Into The Woods, Abbey Theatre, Nuneaton, until June 10.
Little Red Riding Hood sounds like Jane Horrocks in Absolutely Fabulous, the witch and the wolf are truly terrifying and there's not one, but two, handsome princes to choose from.
Not that you'd want to put much faith in either of them really as Cinderella's chap, Nathan Walsh, confesses: "I've been raised to be charming, not sincere."
This isn't long after his royal romp with the hilarious baker's wife, played by Katy Lloyd, who he serenades with lines like: "Life can be so unpleasant...you must know this as a peasant."
Who else but Stephen Sondheim could have written the music, and particularly those lyrics, to this 30-year-old Broadway show which is definitely worth the effort - but at three hours long won't be to everyone's taste.
It's the Nuneaton-based Masqueraders Theatrical Society, under the direction of Mike Chappell, who have taken on the challenge. And it is a triumph.
Praise must go to the set-builders and sound-effects people backstage. The woodland stage looks terrific while the earth-shattering reverberations of unseen giants toppling out of the sky had me plugging my ears. There were a few feedback glitches with the borrowed sound system on Tuesday, but not many.
For those unfamiliar with Into The Woods, it's a collection of fairy tales tossed into a ratatouille then doused in vinegar for a sharp "be careful what you wish for" warning.
I loved Erin Broadhurst's Little Red Riding Hood - she has natural comedic ability - while her own personal wolf, in the shape of Chris Roberts, howls hideously, and is only outdone by cackling Jenny Chappell having the time of her life as the wicked witch.
There's two princesses, as well - no there's actually about four but who's counting?
The main pair are Laura McElvenny (Cinderella) and Sophie Hayward (Rapunzel) - both with lovely duets with their no-better-than-they-should-be suiters.
I particularly enjoyed the knockabout routine developed by Cinderella's chap, the less than charming Nathan Walsh, and Rapunzel's prince, played by Sam King, as they sang Agony.
But timing is everything in this show and Katy Lloyd and Sam Asbury (the baker), along with Jordan Bloomer (Jack) were all put to the test, and proved worthy of the challenge.
Before rehearsals began the Masqueraders' musical director, David Adams, did warn director Mike Chappell, this Sondheim classic is "rather hard."
But it was worth it.
Into the woods
Bennett's gems sparkle all over again
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