Sondheim’s intricate musical exploring the world of fairy tale marches boldly into the Royal Opera House’s versatile studio space, in an in-house production directed by Will Tuckett. No surprise that the movement is so beautifully articulated, but the cast’s groupings and general direction are also spick and span. That they are able to perform in such a magical environment as designer Lez Brotherston’s enchanted forest, and in his immaculately realised children’s story book costumes, is much to their advantage. Tim Mitchell’s lighting and Chris Full’s sound design add to the impact of the special effects. Rarely do Covent Garden’s main auditorium shows look as good as this.
The mix of actors, musical theatre performers and opera singers works well under the expert baton of James Holmes, and there are some wonderful performances. None better than Beverley Klein’s comprehensively fine Witch, a study in technical know-how, but Peter Caulfield is an endearing Jack, Gillian Kirkpatrick a demure and sentimentally appealing Cinderella, Anna Francolini determined as the Baker’s Wife and Suzanne Toase scrumptious as Little Red Riding Hood.
Clive Rowe needs a little more focus as the Baker and Gary Waldhorn’s Narrator more command. One or two of the ensembles in this trickiest of Broadway scores could do with more precision. But taken as a whole, this is a wonderful presentation of a fascinating piece, and surely merits a return to the Linbury after this short run ends.