Review: Into the Woods, Grand Opera House

4 Dec 2014 @ 11.29 am
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Do you dare head Into The Woods with these guys?

Into The Woods by Pick Me Up Theatre

Grand Opera House

Dec 3-6 @ 7.30pm & 2.30pm Sat matinee


Grand Opera House website

Written and composed by American legend Stephen Sondheim, Into The Woods is a musical that takes Disney-style fairy tales and turns them on their heads.

Many people will have seen the Tim Burton movie of Sondheim’s other popular work Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter, but Into The Woods is something completely different.

The play follows the story of several fairy tale characters – Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack (of Beanstalk fame).

At the heart of the show are the Baker and his Wife, who are have been offered a deal from the witch next door: if they retrieve a red cape, a gold shoe, yellow hair and a white cow they will be able to have a child.

Unsurprisingly they all go “into the woods” to find various things based on their stories, and come out changed by their experiences but not necessarily for the better.

All the cast tackle the mountainous Sondheim lyrics and often tricky melodies with gusto. Rich McDonald as the Baker and Toni Feetenby as the Baker’s Wife put together a particularly impressive performance.

Susannah Baines makes an excellent witch – helped by a great costume in the first half – and evokes more emotion in her songs than some of the others. Katy Metheringham as Little Red Riding Hood is under-utilised as she has a very strong voice and a potentially riveting stage presence.

If anyone stole the show and got the audience participating it is Simon Radford as both the Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince – his languid and effortless command of the stage, his lines and both characters leaves us all having a little giggle. And he is definitely one for the ladies.

His rendition of Agony with fellow Prince Darren Lumby is genuinely amusing and well sung.

The costumes and make-up – especially the cow costume by Anne Bigland – are reminiscent of pantomime, garish, bright and work as a clever contrast to the dark set and even darker plot line.

Director Robert Readman does a stand up job of organising a large cast and a myriad of individual story arcs.

The biggest disappointment is the sound itself – some of the sound effects were far too loud, and many actors suffered from fading in and out, which made the production seem more disjointed.

Despite these technical difficulties, Into The Woods provides an entertaining yet dark romp through Grimm’s fairy tales.

And the black humour lessens the impact of all that blinding. I mean seriously, do these crows ever have a break from pecking people’s eyes out?