Drayton Arms theatre | until 4th July 2015
The Baker’s Wife – Review
Long before I was a ‘Wicked’ fan, I was a great admirer of it’s composer Stephen Schwartz. Schwartz has written some incredible songs for some of Disney’s most classic films, his musicals Godspell and Pippin are top-rate and I even rank his ‘flop’ Children of Eden as of one of my favourite shows of all time.
So it is no surprise that I am very familiar with the music from his show ‘The Baker’s Wife’, I bought the LP from Dress Circle when the show opened at the Phoenix Theatre in the late ‘80s but unfortunately missed the chance to see it on it’s short run of only 56 performances. I was delighted to have the opportunity to finally see it staged last night at the Drayton Arms Theatre in South Kensington. At last I could put these wonderful songs into context.
The Baker’s Wife is based on the film ‘La Femme Du Boulanger’ by Marcel Pagnol and Jean Giono. It is set in a rural, isolated village in 1930s France. The villagers congregate in the local café and spend their days constantly bickering with each other.
Whilst they argue about trivial matters Denise the Café owner muses that nothing ever changes. However an air of excitement comes to the village when they welcome the new town baker (Gary Bland) and his beautiful wife Genevieve (Holli Paige Farr). Things seem perfect for a while, the villagers have their bread and when a scandal erupts involving Genevieve and the Mayor’s handsome young handyman Dominique (Adam Redford) the villagers really have something to gossip about.
Although the central story of the Baker and his wife is pleasantly engaging, it is when the ensemble comes together that this production really excels. The contrasting characters that make up the village community are a sheer joy to watch.
Overseen by Musical Director Kieran Stallard, the musical numbers maintain a French lilt whilst the cast inject the right amount of humour and pathos as required. From the tuneful classic ‘Meadowlark’ to the harmonious ‘Chanson’, Schwartz is one of the best writers for female singers there is but again, it is the ensemble numbers that really stand out, in particular ‘Romance’ and ‘If it wasn’t for you’.
In the intimacy of the Drayton Arms theatre the set design worked exceedingly well, merging the Baker’s house and bakery together with the café and the village square without it feeling cluttered or confusing. An occasional clever projection and also the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the theatre is used to great effect to the warm appreciation of the audience.
I knew that The Baker’s Wife was a musical with some pretty fine songs, but I am delighted to find that it is altogether an utterly charming show and this production produced by MKEC Productions is well worth seeing.
The Baker’s Wife runs until the 4th July 2015, Further details here.