Co-directors Terry Gilliam and Leah Hausman haven’t had an easy ride getting this revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods to the stage. Theatre changes and dreaded Covid delays have meant we’re seeing this show a lot later than expected. With this, not only comes great excitement but higher expectations.
For those of you who have seen the show before, or the 2014 Disney film crammed with famous faces, you’ll know a lot happens in these woods…
Unlike the Disney film, this production embraces the death-packed plot and doesn’t hold back on a bit of gore and darkness. There were a few children among the audience that I think will be having nightmares of step-sisters slicing off their toes and Red Riding Hood being cut out of a wolf's stomach for some time!
With each character venturing into the woods on their own mission, their stories quickly become intertwined; but all centre around the Baker and his wife's mission to collect the ingredients needed to break the witch's spell, which is preventing them from having a baby. The cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn and the slipper as pure as gold…it’ll be ingrained into you by the interval!
The second act is darker, with the grim reaper regularly taking his victims and looming over the characters as they realise the error of their ways. There is a particularly poignant rendition of ‘Your Fault’ with Red, Cinders, the Baker and Jack spiralling into a finger-pointing frenzy.
This production matches the size of the plot with equally huge performances, extravagant sets and extraordinary props. From flowers magically appearing, to witches magically disappearing, there is plenty of ingenious theatrical sorcery, which even a regular theatre-goer would be wowed by. When it comes to audience reaction, the audible gasps, shocked laughter and immediate standing ovations speak for themselves.
I could write an entire review on the set alone. It conjures giant dolls' feet to crush poor, crazy Rapunzel...as well as an enlarged baked bean can tower for her to live in! A huge swinging pocket watch swings between characters each evening and an oversized rose represents the Fairy Godmother; dropping its petals which then transform into Cinderella’s gown!
There isn’t a weak link between the large cast, who all shine in their own moments; even Milky White the cow, who is often a scene-stealer. Baker’s Wife, Alex Young, brings expertly-timed comedic wit and bounces beautifully off her husband, played by Rhashan Stone. Young also pairs perfectly with the engaging Audrey Brisson as Cinderella in their performance of ‘A Very Nice Prince’. An honourable mention must be made to the feisty Scottish redhead, Little Red Riding Hood, played by Lauren Conroy.
With rumours of this making its way to the West End, I implore you all to escape the real world and get lost in the woods for the evening. You won’t regret it!