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Into the Woods at Chatsworth Theatre REVIEW

[AD – PR invite] I remember an argument I had with a previous colleague about whether the theatre was better than cinema. He wouldn’t be convinced that the presence of the players on stage trumped any CGI but I stand by it- The Chatsworth Players immersed me in the world in way that the just film didn’t. I was lucky enough to see Into The Woods (Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical about the convergence of a trine: three fairy tales find themselves entwined like the roots of a branch) on the Friday of its sold-out run at the grand theatre (read about the history of that here). This is the first musical of the Chatsworth Players, a company set up by Sylvia Jackson after a career in acting, directing and teaching. Sylvia was Derbyshire born and helped the Cavendishes restore the theatre from its former use of a storeroom. It must have been wonderful for the family to see the room full on the Friday evening show.

What first struck me (and my mum who’d joined me as my co-‘critic’) was how not-am-dram this was. The very first line Cinderella sang about her wish to go to the festival and I was in- the actor’s voice was remarkable and I looked forward to Cinderella’s parts just to hear her voice again.

Chatsworth theatre - grand theatre at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

The set was simple but not simplistic- it’s such a compact stage that the players needed to exercise all their creativity to utilise the space. As in the title, the woods form the main setting and the slotted boards painted with trees remained throughout. Mainly though, this is a continuous musical. It’s not a play with songs but instead it is a narrative where the vast majority of lines are all sung. As a result the actors needed voices to carry the power of the story and boy did they. Every single singing part was en-pointe and captivating. A special mention to the prince, baker’s wife and the witch (as well as Cinderella) whose voices never missed a note and would not have been out of place on the West End.

If seeing the Chatsworth Players at the grand house’s theatre wasn’t enough, our journey down to the car park was interrupted by a large herd of around fifty deer crossing the road in front of us. In stopping we also got the fabulous dusky view of the house in sunset at golden hour.

It felt like such a treat- a visit to the grand house and the theatre. We loved it.

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Find out more about Chatsworth Players.

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