Into The Woods review by Downstage Centre

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VENTURE ‘INTO THE WOODS’ THIS HALLOWEEN WEEKEND AND DISCOVER THE DARK SECRETS BEHIND YOUR CHILDHOOD FAIRYTALES, AS BMTG PRESENT ONE OF SONDHEIM’S BEST KNOWN WORKS.

It’s an epic story and one that presents many challenges but Beeston Musical Theatre Group has produced an outstanding adaptation.

The musical, inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairytales, follows the story of the Baker and his Wife who wish to have a child and go into the woods to find a series of objects which will help them reverse the curse placed on them by their neighbourhood witch.

Along the way, they meet Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and many other familiar fairytale characters, all of whom are pursuing their own wishes. But this is no ordinary tale of happy-ever-after and even after achieving their dreams; unforeseen consequences shatter the illusion of wish fulfilment.

‘Into the Woods’ showcases Sondheim’s love of interconnecting themes. The storyline weaves together the everyday with the phantasmagorical; the mundane with the fantastical and throughout dissects and exposes humanity and its frailties. This intertwining takes place through the storyline, the characters and lyrics, but most notably in the music, where recurring themes and motifs create a unique world.

BMTG’s ambitious production tackles this complex show head on. Craig Butterworth, the Director, must have had a very strong vision of exactly how this could work before he began. The casting is spot-on, with strong vocals and acting performances from all the leads. Rob Charles and Cat Tuckey as the Baker and his Wife represent the ‘everyman’ in us all, and both convey the emotional journey of their characters with warmth and humour.

Zoe Brinklow as Little Red Riding Hood brings some welcome light relief from the darker storyline, with her flirtatious and engaging Red, a pre-teen with attitude. Andrea Chapman has wonderful control in the big numbers as the Witch, a portrayal which manages to be sensitive and powerful at the same time. A stand-out performance from Claire Rybicki as the unusually indecisive Cinderella, played with great sensitivity and a lovely clear, sweet voice.

Without exception, the smaller characters are beautifully presented, from the lascivious Wolf to the no-nonsense Granny, though one of the highlights of the show has to be the two Princes, played by Kev Chatten and Tim Yearsley, who manage to make vanity and pomposity almost lovable with a touch of pantomime and slapstick. BMTG’s production takes it’s inspiration from a Regent’s Park production, including featuring the Narrator as a young schoolgirl – a device which allows the story to be delivered as if from her imagination. Anna McAuley portrayed the Narrator with a child-like enthusiasm and joy, managing to keep her energy high throughout, despite being on stage virtually continuously and managing a complex range of props.

Musically, Sondheim throws down a gauntlet to the most able of MD’s, but Morven Harrison takes on the challenge with relish and has produced a beautifully crafted sound. Virtually the whole script is underscored and despite a bewildering array of recurring musical motifs throughout, the ‘flow’ of the music is continuous and enveloping. undefinedThe staging was very striking and used to great effect. A combination of different heights and platforms festooned with real tree branches, ivy and berries, and a photographic backdrop created a suitably ‘magical’ feel and when combined with clever lighting, allowed the action to move on convincingly. As if all this were not enough, the cast were also in charge of manipulating puppets and bringing to life other characters entirely from props – on a grand scale and to great effect. The choreography of the ensemble numbers was difficult given the numbers on a small stage – but it was tight, energetic and added further to the polished finish.

If you can somehow magic up a ticket this weekend, get to see this show, and let BMTG cast you under Sondheim’s spell.

Read the original review here http://downstagecentre.com/the-dsc-team/kathryn-mcauley/into-the-woods/