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Reviewing the spellbinding ‘Into the Woods’ musical at Middleton Hall



I had the pleasure of attending the previews of Into the Woods at the weekend ahead of it’s theatrical stage run at Middleton Hall this week.

Staged by the Hull Musical Theatre Group, the company’s warm hospitality set the tone for a delightful evening of musical theatre, featuring music and lyrics by the legendary Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine.

My previous experience with Into the Woods was limited to the 2014 movie adaptation, so seeing the musical performed live offered a fresh and exhilarating perspective.

The story follows the Baker (Chris Barques) and his wife (Paige Hudder), who are on a quest to lift a curse placed on them by their wicked witch neighbour (Sarah Brodie), rendering them childless. The witch sets them the challenge of collecting four specific items by midnight in three days: “The cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, the slipper as pure as gold!”

Narrators Alex Dickenson and Esme Ferris guide the audience through this whimsical yet perilous world. Dickenson’s charismatic and engaging delivery draws us into the fairytale realm, while Ferris’s warm and inviting presence perfectly balances his dynamic tone. Together, they enhance the storybook theme and make the journey through the woods both captivating and memorable.

Beyond the Baker and his wife, the show features a number of other standout characters:

Meg Sugden as Little Red Riding Hood
Brilliant and hilariously comedic, often paired with Alex Dickenson (The Wolf). Their duet “Hello, Little Girl” is a standout moment.

Aaron Bolton as Jack
His performance of “Giants in the Sky” was a highlight of Act 1, and his chemistry with Josh Murraybutler (Milky White) was evident throughout, even during background scenes.

Joe Spence (Cinderella’s Prince) and Christian Brodie (Rapunzel’s Prince)
Their comedic timing in “Agony” was exceptional, providing lighter moments in the darker second act.

Holly Bridgen as Cinderella
A standout performance with incredible vocals, capturing Cinderella’s innocence and strength with remarkable precision. Bridgen’s enchanting portrayal makes her character’s journey deeply moving and relatable.

Sarah Brodie as the Witch
Her exceptional expressions and vocals perfectly captured the Witch’s twisted personality, with her rendition of “Last Midnight” being particularly memorable.

The stage design effectively uses the space, including a raised platform that maximises the vertical area, with steps leading up to it. The backdrop’s changing colours, complemented by dynamic lighting, kept the focus on the cast and set. The detailed props and thematic elements were well-aligned with the narrative, enhancing the visual storytelling and immersing the audience in the fairytale world.

One of the musical’s most challenging songs, “Your Fault,” showcased the entire company’s skill. This complex piece, with its intricate rhythms and pacing, was well-executed under the direction of musical director Rebecca Barques. The visible presence of the band and conductor at the front of the stage added a lovely touch, integrating them into the visual landscape of this wonderful Sondheim production.

Don’t miss this enchanting show, running only until 13th July at Middleton Hall, Hull University – Tickets available here.

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