Pros: A clean storyline that gets hilarious at times. The show was at its best when the cast got singing and moving in synchrony. Some tremendous singing and lots of fun to watch!
Cons: The quality of acting and singing varied although it was never below good. The pace dropped a bit in the second part of the first act.
What happens if you live in a small little village in Provencal France, 1930s and your Baker suddenly leaves? Out of 1930s rural France, with all its coquettes and Marquis, fromage and bisous, we were taken into a world made of colourful characters, desperate for some freshly baked bread and croissants.
There were two well-balanced acts, with a longer introduction full of joyful banter and very entertaining character development. We have instant favourite Denise (Elizabeth Chadwick), the café maid, whose gorgeous singing voice introduced the story. Meanwhile, stiff but endearing teacher Messeur Martine (Matthew Whitby) was busy arguing with the equally endearing priest Messeur Le Cure (Aron Trausti) about the merits of his oak tree overshadowing the priest´s spinach. Butcher Barnaby (Oliver Jacobson) continued to openly maltreat his distraught wife Hortense (Amy Cooke-Hodgeson). As the elegant chauvinist Mayor Messeur Le Marquis (Blair Robertson) enters the scene with his following of “nieces” (Amy Lawton, Danielle Bond, Lauren Harvey), all we need is bread. When the new baker, chubby middle aged Aimable Castagnet (Gary Bland), arrived with his beautiful young wife Genevieve (Holli Page Farr), the whole village knew that beautiful and young was also going to mean trouble.
Beyond the lively if slightly predictable plot, what maked this show eminently enjoyable was the way everything worked together. The musical composition and direction were faultless and the actors´ singing mostly matched up to that level, although some were more apt at singing than others in the cast. The interaction between the villagers and their reaction to the developing story were outright hilarious at times with some truly superb moments throughout. Some nice little touches added to the atmosphere such as the vintage costumes and cat PouPou´s shadow dancing in Genevieve´s bedroom. As the crux of the storyline took shape, the villagers set old rivalries aside and worked together to save the Baker´s marriage and heart, so that they can continue enjoying crusty fresh bread.
The Baker´s wife is a story of considerable depths in spite of a seemingly simple plot. Love and marriage, religion and morality, passion and guilt, all came together in the little Provençal village. The quality of acting was variable from good to excellent; the pace of the show equally variable from perfection to a tad dragging; the result was a show just short of a full five stars but with potential to get there with time.
This is no doubt another magnificent and enjoyable production from MKEC, after the success of ‘Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens’ last year. Who needs the West End when we can have little known musical comedy gems like this above our local gastropub?
Author: Joseph Stein
Director: Marc Kelly
Music and Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz
Music director: Kieran Stallard
Book Until: Saturday 4 July 2015
Booking link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/mkecproductions