NODA review of Into The Woods

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Into the Woods debuted in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986 and premiered on Broadway on
November 5, 1987, where it won several Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical (Joanna Gleason). It has since recently been produced as part of New York City’s outdoor Shakespeare in the Park series and at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre – which provided the inspiration for the setting for the BMTG production that was staged at the Duchess to such great effect tonight.

Craig and Morven, together with their outstanding cast, ‘puppeteers’, set design/building teams, and ‘Westwood-esque’ costuming (all of which were designed and provided by the BMTG family) have quite simply created a show that is sublime, exquisite and captivating. Sondheim is in indeed both a ‘swine’ and a genius and on paper this is a musical that could be an atonal nightmare with so many intertwining melodies, keys, storylines, characters and a long running time. However, BMTG’s production was apparently effortless: the complexities of the score and its 72 numbers, with in many cases 4 characters or more with potentially clashing counter melodies, seemed as ‘easy and natural’ as any G&S.

Every Actor be they Principal, Supporting role or Woodlander, gave superb vocal and acting performances – there was barely a moment when they were not using their entire being to make their character three dimensional and believable especially when reacting to each other or the situation, without overacting or upstaging (ok within the bounds of what the Princes should do…).

Morven and Craig had obviously given a huge amount of attention to detail in the dynamics, action and reaction of their performers. Craig with his choreographic eye, enabled the choral movement to flow and delight throughout the evening as well and the obvious work he had done on characterisation, as Morven had also done on vocal development, with Rob Charles – the vulnerable Baker, Cat Tuckey – the ‘desperate for a child’ Bakers Wife, Zoe Brinklow – a very street wise ‘Red’, George Lamb – the naïve Jack, Claire Rybicki – a deserted Cinderella, Andrea Chapman – the bitter/beautiful Witch and Anna McAuley who linked and pushed the stories forward as a superb Narrator.

These key performers were ably supported by Ronja, Keli and Steph – the beautiful on the outside/wicked on the inside, step-family, Tim & Kev – the understated (right!) ‘Princes in Agony’, Beth – the increasingly distracted/belching Rapunzel, Josh – the condescending Steward, Mina, Ruth & Kendra the alarming Parents, Alex – the lustful Wolf, Keith the confusing Mysterious Man, Lisa the booming Giant and Laura and Kay providing a convincing Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

Lighting and sound supported the production which was significantly enhanced by; the superb 13 piece
orchestra ably guided by Morven, very atmospheric set design/construction, and steam punk inspired costuming provided by Mina Machin.

Congratulations one and all – and here’s to the rest of the run! I look forward to seeing your next production.

Martin Holtom