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Posts Tagged ‘Evan Rees’

When I walked into the Menier and took my seat, my reaction was the same as it was for the Bacharach Reimagined show last year. Designer Derek McLane has turned it into a magical, even more intimate space. There’s a proscenium made of piano keyboards, side ‘walls’ of grand piano innards, a back wall of ropes, three or four deep, representing the woods, and eight chandeliers above the stage and the front of the auditorium. Lovely. The show was lovely too, a very original and inventive small-scale take on Sondheim’s deceptively moral show.

It weaves the well known tales of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood with the less well-known (well, here at least) Rapunzel and The Baker’s Wife. The Baker has to find a white cow, red cloak, golden slipper and yellow hair to break the witches curse on his barren wife. By the interval, the baker’s wife is no longer barren, Cinderella and Rapunzel each marry a prince and Jack has solved his family’s money problems, but Cinderella’s sisters are blind, the wolf is dead, the witch has lost her powers and turned into a beautiful woman and the giantess is really pissed off! In the much darker second half Cinderella loses her prince, the baker his wife, Little Red Riding Hood her grandma and Jack has to decide what to do about the giantess.

The production has a storytelling quality totally in keeping with the material, more of a play with music, without the staginess of much musical theatre. This brings even more charm to the lighter moments, plunging into a deeper darkness in the second half. The moral of the tale comes over much more strongly. With five of the hugely talented cast doubling roles, and all playing an array proper and improvised instruments, it is all told, sung and played by just ten actors, including co-directors Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, and pianist Evan Rees. They’ve all brought the show over from the US and we appear to be benefiting from an ensemble who have worked on it for some time in more than one incarnation.

This is an original and imaginative interpretation, an excellent addition to my collection of nine productions. Definitely one for other Sondheim fans to see and a great introduction to those who don’t know the work or who have only seen the film.

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