It is a fast, funny, yet evocative musical, full of Sondheim and Lapine’s intelligent repartee. Yellow Glass Theatre’s production at Subiaco Arts Centre is no exception. Directed by Chris Kabay with Musical Direction from Simon Holt, this production is poignant, funny, thought provoking and of an extremely high standard.
Sondheim (music and lyrics) and Lapine (book) wrote Into the Woods in the early 1980’s, premiering on Broadway in 1987, winning three Tony’s and a Grammy for best musical cast show album. The main characters are drawn from Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Rapunzel, intertwined with an original story of a baker and his wife who yearn for children. Themes of responsibility, morality, family relationships and growing up abound. “I wish”; two words that feature strongly, is the theme that brings the characters into the wood and reverberates throughout the production.
Brad Reid’s set is a dark green/grey/black mythical interpretation of the woods, suitably versatile for the various settings. Multiple entrances / exits and different levels add interest to the set, although I was disappointed that there was no beanstalk. The lighting by Roger Miller was slightly problematic, primarily due to the actors not finding the light in a number of scenes.
The cast performed well with a typically difficult Sondheim score. Whilst it was evident they all had decent voices, it was equally evident that there were some standout performers. Sharon Wisniewski as the Bakers Wife was a strong and likeable character with clear, powerful vocals. Her duet ‘It Takes Two' with the Baker (a wonderful Gregory Jones) was a highlight, as was the duet between the Bakers Wife and Cinderella ('A Very Nice Prince'). Ruth Wilkin, a regular Yellow Glass Theatre performer, was impressive as the determined Cinderella. Mitchell Goode as the young naïve Jack was also solid.
However, the best performances; for their commanding voices and exaggerated, riotous characters were Izaak Lim and Shai Yammanee as the two Princes. Their duet 'Agony' was the standout song and received the largest applause from the audience. They were the only two performers with the strength of voice to completely fill the theatre.
I was somewhat disappointed by Haley Binks as the Witch. Whilst her clarity of voice was exceptional, she lacked the strength and weight needed for the Witch’s pivotal songs. One only needs to recall Bernadette Peters stunning Broadway turn as the Witch to see how much vocal strength is needed for the role. The same could be said for most of the cast, who were often overpowered by the 6 piece (otherwise excellent) band.
The cast suffered somewhat from the need to face the three sides of the audience, and it occasionally looked like they were timing themselves; five seconds facing here, turn slightly, five seconds facing here etc. This may have been opening night nerves as it relaxed towards the end of the performance, but it is something to be wary of.
Despite the few reservations, I came out impressed and humming the songs, having enjoyed myself immensely. This is a brilliant musical, and a wonderful production by Yellow Glass Theatre.
yellow glass theatre presents
INTO THE WOODS
Venue: Subiaco Arts Centre, Hamersley Rd, Subiaco
Dates/Times: 5 - 14 June 2008 @ 7.30pm 14 June 2008 @ 1pm
Tickets: $39.50 / $44.50
Bookings: BOCS 9484 1133 / www.bocsticketing.com.au