Review: Stakes are high in fairytale musical Into The Woods

Into The Woods, presented by Matlock Musical Theatre Company. Photo by Matt Petch.
Into The Woods, presented by Matlock Musical Theatre Company. Photo by Matt Petch.

Singers and their supporters need to be challenged and taken out of their comfort zone from time to time.

And that’s what happens in Matlock Musical Theatre’s ambitious undertaking of Into The Woods this week.

Ambitious because of its vocally demanding score which means it is rarely tackled by amateur companies.

But this group had the firepower to pull off incredibly complex songs such as Your Fault which is a triumph of talent and timing.

Good singing and characterisation by main performers Jo Petch as Cinderella, James Strath as the Baker, Zoe Taylor as the Baker’s Wife, Maria Dent as The Witch and Andrea Turner as Little Red Riding Hood and Beth Allwright as Jack (of beanstalk fame) keeps the audience engrossed.

The musical is a strange beast, verging on opera at times, coming close to pantomime at others. It plays out well-loved fairy stories leading to a traditional happy ending at the interval. However, the bubble bursts in the second act when the giant’s widow comes seeking revenge, a couple of characters die and Cinderella realises that life as a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Sublime music, which is occasionally lullaby-like, is beautifully performed by a four-strong band led by the show’s director and musical director Paul Nash.

The acoustics at Matlock Bath Pavilion are ideal, the giant’s footsteps echoing through the cavernous hall.

A thin audience for the first performance last night (Thursday) must have been disappointing for the company given all the hard work which had gone into the production.

Into The Woods continues its run tonight, tomorrow afternoon and tomorrow night.