‘INTO THE WOODS’ – NOVEMBER 2014
In the tradition of all the best fairy tales Stephen Sondheim’s score includes both light and darkness. It opened at The Phoenix Theatre in London in 1990 and ran for 186 performances. The music is challenging for both performers and audience alike, and makes for uneasy listening for those who are not familiar with the works of Sondheim. I have seen this musical four times now but still struggle to find any tune that is melodic or predictable in its resolve, but I do appreciate that is why some people find it so appealing. I fall into the category of not being a fan of Sondheim’s music but I thoroughly enjoyed your production and could find little fault with it.
It was brilliantly directed by TJ Lloyd, who, with the help of the talented cast, magically brought the fairy tales characters to life. The enactment of the well-known stories on stage serves to highlight the macabre side, something not nearly so obvious when recounting them to small children.
Paul Nash controlled his musicians expertly and the orchestra was well balanced. The musicians never overpowered the singing.
The birdsong at the opening was lovely and the sound effects were good. The lighting was the best I’ve seen at the Magna Carta and created just the right atmosphere for the various locations in the musical. The set construction team did a great job, and moving the trees into different positions to indicate the different locations was a simple but clever idea.
Costumes were an interesting mix of eras and styles but I thought it worked well and suited TJ’s interpretation of the musical. Make up was fine.
The show opened with a beautifully set scene of the wigwam style tents, artistically lit and imaginatively used as entrances for the cast.
It is always good to see new faces on stage and there were quite a few in this production; hopefully they will continue to support the society in the future.
As the Narrator, Harriet Law was excellent. She spoke clearly, had a good accent and was confident. I liked the way she was utilised as a stage-hand too and she cleared/set props etc; with style.
Tara Cimino gave a good performance as Cinderella and her vocal ability was high.
Her dreadful sisters and step-mother were expertly played by the capable trio of Amanda, Jo and Connie and they appeared to be enjoying their roles immensely.
Charlie Booker’s diction was clear and he did extremely well as Jack showing great promise for the future. He handled the cow competently making it blend into the story.
Playing The Baker and Baker’s Wife, Nigel Smith and Jennie Kraus gave commendable performances and I enjoyed their ‘It takes two’ in the first act.
As Little Red Riding Hood, Lucy Smith gave a first rate performance. She had stage presence and a good singing voice.
The Smith family were strongly represented and Aileen was splendid as the witch. Despite the mask, her every word could be heard and she was just as scary/ugly as a witch ought to be before her transformation into the beautiful mother of Rapunzel.
Jack Griffin was chillingly sinister as the Wolf and showed his versatility by playing Cinderella’s Prince too. His acting was dramatic and his singing very good.
Robert Garner, playing Rapunzel’s Prince who was a completely different character, was a good foil for him and together they brought out much of the comedy in the production. For me one of the best numbers in the show is ‘Agony’ and they performed it really well.
With a natural stage presence Clive Walker acted The Mysterious Man soundly, whilst Rapunzel (Gabriel Law) coped well with her rather difficult musical interspersions from the tower. ‘Stay with me’ was especially good.
The scene where Wolf eats RRH and then is killed by Grandma was imaginative and the slipper fitting one was scarily realistic with bits of heel/toes held up for the audience to see!
There was much fun and mayhem in Act Two when the tales all go awry because the Narrator is no longer around to tell the correct version, and I thought the Prince and the Bakers Wife enjoying a dalliance behind the tree was matchless.
Bee Wilkinson (Jack’s Mother)Jerry Howell(Cinderella’s Father) Donna Marshall (Cinderella’s Mother) Paula Gething (Granny),Mike Davenport (Steward) Sian Gething (Snow White) Sarah Poore (Sleeping Beauty) and the voice of Maggie Dean (Giant) all contributed to the production, and their input in theses smaller roles was important to the overall success of the show.
The finale was super!
Your programmes are always well produced and I thought that this one reflected the high quality of the show.
Thank you for inviting me to see ‘Into the Woods’ and my thanks also to Elizabeth for her hospitality on the evening. It was good to have the opportunity to meet TJ in the interval too.
Congratulations to absolutely everyone involved in this stunning production.
NODA South East Regional Representative- District 12