If you go into the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise.
Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical (Book by James Lapine) is full of familiar characters who end up doing unfamiliar things. And it’s like life, really – that the happy-ever-after bit only lasts through Act 1. Solid - sometimes sordid - reality takes over, and has to be dealt with in the end. But we can still wish…the trick is to be careful what we wish for.
This production sees the salad of storybook characters charmingly and whimsically pursuing their various dreams in the woods, expertly directed by Richard Trevaskis. The Woods themselves are a wonderful set designed by David Lampard, who also strode commandingly through the role of Narrator, holding the mish mash together with style. His set cleverly echoes the twists and curls of the music - and the plot - which in turn, was superbly handled by the cast, amongst whom are no weak links at all.
Stephen Sondheim’s somewhat challenging, and not always immediately accessible score was well handled by this talented cast. Ross Curtis manages the small pit orchestra well too, in spite of an occasional wayward wander by some winds into pitch inaccuracies, but he wisely eschewed the strident inaccurate trumpet which is the bane of many pit orchestras. This is a big and taxing play for a band, and this particular one managed personfully.
Meanwhile, above them on the boards, Mark Oates is an endearing Baker – one of the interlopers into the collection of traditional fairy tale characters, ably supported by Bronwen James as his wife. The natural comic ability of Melissa Hann shines through in her delightful portrayal of a suitably little Red Riding Hood, while Steve Rudd - another natural comic - is both a sleazy and sensuous Wolf and a suitably silly Prince. His “Agony” duet with Andrew Crispe - the other Prince - was a riot, as was his very funny excuse for his infidelity with the baker’s wife: “I was raised to be charming, not sincere!”
And speaking of funny, Sondheim’s extraordinary ability with sublime rhymes makes it vital that the words can be heard, and they were. Paul Talbot’s tall and gormless Jack was ably paired with Wendy Rayner’s fine portrayal of his fussy and materialist Mother. It was a delight to hear John Greene’s mellifluous baritone in both speech and song as the Mysterious Man, and Annie Slade’s clear tones made a sweet and easy to listen to Cinderella.
All together it was great to “See them gaily dance about. They love to play and shout. And never have any cares.” Until the darkness of Act 2 took over at least. It could be enough to make you think “It's lovely out in the woods today, But safer to stay at home.” But don’t be fooled. This is a fine production and a credit to all involved. So if you are thinking of going to the theatre, get yourself Into the Woods.
The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of South Australia presents
by arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd Exclusive agent for Music Theatre International (NY)
Into The Woods
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim | Book by James Lapine
Originally Directed on Broadway by James Lapin
Venue: the Arts Theatre
Dates: September 20 - 29
Times: 20 - 22 September 8pm, 26 - 29 September 8pm; 22 September 2pm, 29 September 2pm
Bookings: 8447 7239 or Bass 131 246