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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Higgins’

I once had an email from the ENO encouraging me to book for ‘Terry Gilliam’s The Damnation of Faust’. I’d already booked, so I replied asking for a refund as I thought it was Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust. Such is the power of the director. I was therefore somewhat cautious about seeing a favourite show by my musical theatre hero directed by the same man, though in all fairness it wasn’t billed as Terry Gilliam’s Into the Woods. I needn’t have worried. Though it’s got his aesthetic stamp all over, it serves the show well.

Four fairytales are interwoven under the umbrella of a tale about a childless couple who need to collect four items – Cinderella’s slipper, Rapunzel’s hair, Jack’s cow and Little Red Riding Hood’s cloak – in order to break the curse. You are lulled into a false sense of security in the first half only to be confronted with the giantess’ wrath in the second. It’s very clever, containing some of Sondheim’s best tunes and lyrics, closing with a message cautioning us about what we say to our children.

Gilliam and his co-director Leah Hausman give it a period feel in keeping with Bath’s Georgian Theatre Royal, starting each act with a girl playing with an antique toy theatre. Jon Bausor’s design and Anthony McDonald’s costumes are brilliant, again with a period feel, a nod to panto and references to Monty Python when the giantess appears. What makes the show though is brilliant casting leading to sky high musical standards led by MD Stephen Higgins.

Chief among the stars of the show are Nicola Hughes as The Witch, a properly malevolent presence with stunning vocals, probably the best I’ve ever seen in this role. Rhashan Stone & Alex Young are excellent as the baker and his wife, at the centre of the story, Rhashan (who I’ve never really associated with musical theatre despite seeing him in three musicals) with charm and vulnerability and Alex with her beautiful vocals. Audrey Brisson is a firm favourite of mine and she’s simply excellent as Cinderella. Barney Wilkinson captures the naivety and neediness of Jack and Lautren Conroy makes an impressive stage debut as a feisty Glaswegian Little Red Riding Hood. The rest of the ensemble make outstanding contributions.

Nothing will ever replace that first time in 1990, or the Regents Park Open Air Theatre’s magical production in 2010, but this was still well worth the trip to Bath, after the Old Vic caved in to its staff’s wish to censor. Well, their loss was Bath’s gain. Surely someone will transfer this to London, or is wokeness going to override freedom of expression in our increasingly constrained artistic world.

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