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Review of Into The Woods by Stephen Sondheim performed by The Masque Theatre at The Holy Sepulchre, Northampton

For my fifth visit to the Masque Theatre, I headed Into The Woods for their production of Stephen Sondheim's musical. In my fast learning theatre binge this year, I had encountered Sondheim once before with Sweeney Todd (review here) and to say I had been mighty impressed was an understatement. Even to my untrained ear, Sondheim is quite a different writer of music which needs a great deal of concentration. However it is mightly rewarding if you do.

From the book by James Lapine, and cleverly weaving many Brother Grimms' fairy tales into one, it is a suitably macabre little story built around a constant musical track. While not having many totally memorable individual tunes with the exception of Into The Woods itself, the whole works suberbly together to make a hugely enjoyable musical.

In their production, the Masque Theatre were once again showing their pedigree beyond their "amateur" status. None of the performers were a let down, and some were simply superb and many were also becoming familiar to me as well. Fraser Haines was excellent as lead character The Baker, holding the story together superbly, a solid and professional performance. Rachel Bedford was one of many that I recognised from previous productions (well later in the performance anyway) and she was once again very impressive, at her very best early when she was very much "the witch". Mark Woodham in his two roles was an impressive presence, particularly in his first role of The Wolf, combining menace and outrageous comedy in equal measure. It was also nice to see Barry Dougall again in his brief appearances as the Mysterious Man (and perhaps woman? ;) ). He has bought good fun for me this year, be it as a fool or an occasionally dodgy accent, and in this he was no different. The final and most impressive diamond on display was Hannah Burt who brings the springy Little Red Riding Hood to life in such an incredible way. I had gave her a suitable mention as Hero in Much Ado earlier this year (review here), but in this Hannah has taken it up a considerable notch and was for me the only place to look whenever she was on stage. Also a gurning superstar!

The staging was clever and inventive on an obvious budget, with the most impressive use of buckets I suspect I shall see for sometime. Director Philip Welsh has worked well with his huge cast to create the production in such a unique space with the obvious difficulty well managed. Ian Riley likewise brings great music to our ears with his talented thirteen musicians.

The Masque Theatre have once again come up trumps with a very professional "amatuer" production of a jolly and dark musical and if you have the stamina for its admittedly long running time, you will not spend a better value tenner this week. Go Into The Woods as you will be assured of a big delight!

Performance reviewed: 16th December, 2014 at the Holy Sepulchre, Northampton. 

Into The Woods is performed by the Masque Theatre and runs until Saturday 20th December, 2014 at the Holy Sepulchre, Northampton.

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