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Groove Into the Woods at King’s Place

The producers of Groove Baby’s Groove Into the Woods describe their latest production as “a midpoint between kid shows and ‘regular’ adult concerts” and they’re right. Whilst youngsters are sprawled atop bean bags and cushions upon jigsawed foam floormats – creating a squirmy foundation for the acoustic glory that is King’s Place – their grown-ups can sit amongst them or on the side-lines and enjoy some seriously funky sounds pre or post-brunch. It’s sort of the Gourmet Hamburger Kitchen of jazz – as an adult your own tastes have evolved to disdain the prospect of putting a Big Mac into your own mouth, but your offspring crave the trappings of a Happy Meal – so a compromise must be reached whereby the parental host doesn’t feel exhausted or contaminated like a trip to the ball-pond but nor does she feel guilty for pushing a precocious agenda. In other words, there is a high level of unifying musical quality for all ages.

Groove Into the WoodsEvery performance is relaxed insomuch as there is no requirement to be silent nor are there rows of seats over which to climb if you need a toilet break. However, central floor places are at a premium so if you want to lounge with your kids, you should arrive in good time to bag your spot. Groove Baby are touring this show, along with a toddler variation, across the UK throughout 2022 with major venues like the Southbank included. I hope they continue to be placed in premium mid-sized studio spaces that allow for the fast-casual intimacy of King’s Place that also do justice to their exemplary sound.

On stage, we meet the three-part band who know their stuff. True musicians, they vary their tempo and riffs in accordance with the unpredictable nature and duration of chatting with a young audience. It’s a treat – well beyond the usual touring productions of popular children’s book adaptations – to be enveloped in proper musicality. My 9-year-old arrived with anti-jazz preconceptions (reasonably based on his father’s penchant for year-long drum solos – amongst my most obvious grounds for divorce) but came away praising the music with his most ardent imprimatur. He articulated it thus: ‘the music was 5 stars.’ I sensed he was moved by an almost Zappa-like spirit, as was I – so good were the tunes. Even if uncontested abandon wasn’t quite the aim (any pickpocket looking for Waitrose loyalty cards would not be disappointed by this crowd), this show is undeniably a fun and funky catalyst that makes the refusal to boogie an anomaly bordering on social deviance.

The show is billed for ages 3 to 7; but if judged solely on the quality of the live musical performance, it is entirely suitable for all primary school kids and beyond. However, my 9-year-old co-critic continued to opine: ‘the story was a bit cheap.’ When probed, he was a little circumspect but nonetheless adamant about his earlier remark. Was he talking about the plotting? The production values? The characterisation? For my part, the production values were high: a vivid rear-projection screen and die-cut 3-D installations at the foot of the stage along with the thrill of lucky-dip sticker-picking on entry were a feast for the senses – what’s not to love? Indeed my 7-year-old co-critic regarded the affair more holistically. He liked the imagery and the sounds (and I certainly witnessed him groove). Yet when the boys unpacked their opinions over a (non-gourmet) burger, it seemed that they felt the only thing restraining them from a full-throated 5-star endorsement was that they felt they were promised a story but it turned out to be a bit thin, with a ‘huh?’ ending. They were clearly paying close attention and, rapt, if the plotting and dramatic structure aren’t tight, they feel it – even if they don’t yet have the vocabulary to describe it. The two kids seemed to wonder whether any story was necessary at all but dissented on the conclusion of the argument – they both seemed to like the idea of a story but by Year 1 they know what a good story looks like (structurally) and this wasn’t it. In translation, they were basically saying: ‘The music was out-of-this-world good and the imagery and interaction were stimulating, but please either commit to a properly written plot with a well-considered ending or just go for a slide show along with the tunes’. Thus (I think) spake Key Stage 2 (N=2). They might be on to something. I had a great time – Groove Into the Woods is better musically than many much higher-priced West End kids’ shows – but I longed for this musicianship to meet some of the book-writers who structure those productions.

For my part, I spent a Sunday morning feeling like Frank Zappa had been resurrected and my kid and his pal were entertained without an evil algorithm. I’m all for it.

4 stars

Review by Mary Beer

Check out Groove Baby’s shows next year as follows:
· Feb 11th – Southbank Centre, Imagine Festival – Groove Sensation! (new show for 0 – 3s + grownups)
· Feb 26th – Stables, Milton Keynes – Groove Into the Woods
· Mar 26th – Lighthouse, Poole – Groove Into the Woods
· Apr 22nd – Norden Farm – Groove Into the Woods
· May (date TBC) – Brighton Festival – Groove Into the Woods
· May 16th – Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds – Groove Into the Woods
· June 5th – Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds – Groove Into the Woods

Groove Into the Woods is a funny and exciting tale about Holly, Ash and Rowan who are transported into a magical forest. On a mission to rescue their parents from naughty trolls they encounter a confused witch, a rebellious princess and a bunch of kooky fairytale characters.

The show weaves original jazz / funk / pop tunes together with animated storytelling (projected) and fun audience interaction. The show is performed by top-quality jazz musicians who have years of family-show experience.



  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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