Review by Douglas James, Year 12
Another year, another massive PGS musical. Into The Woods was a brilliant showcase of talent from the precision and unfaltering job done by the technical and stage crew, the wonderful soundtrack from the orchestra and the singers, the incredibly directing and of course the superb acting.
Into the Woods is a musical written by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim and combines a whole bunch of fairy tales into one story. You’ve got Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Rapunzel and more.
We start off following the Baker (Joe Brennan) and the Baker’s Wife (Poppy Goad) in their quest to find ingredients for a potion that will allow them to have a child. Luckily enough, these ingredients are essentially found in Jack’s cow, Red Riding Hood’s cape, Cinderella’s slipper, and a bit of Rapunzel’s hair. Throughout, problems arise, as they always do, and one of these problems is the relationship between the Baker and his wife. This bond was superbly acted, not only showing strain in their relationship, but also in managing to convince that they had been married many years, through just simple looks, gestures, and through brilliant comedic timing from both. Unfortunately, once the potion is taken and everything seems fine, we realise that everything… well… isn’t.
In a disastrous turn of events for our brave heroes and villains, the Giant’s wife (India Stewart-Evans) arrives looking for revenge. The fairy tale characters start arguing, the Witch (Loren Dean) tries desperately to keep control; they accidentally kill the apparently touchless Narrator (Daniel Hill) in a brilliant twist where they all turn on him and the Giant’s wife steps on him. The Baker’s wife gets a bit too friendly with Cinderella’s Prince (Barney Carter) and then dies herself. Utter chaos ensues. In the end, the witch storms off, so Cinderella (Cordelia Hobbs) gets some birds to blind the Giant who is then tricked into falling into a well of pitch and killing it with Jack (Saskia Quarrie-Jones) and Red Riding Hood (Tillie Moore, Jazzy Holden and Sofia Callander). Whew! I haven’t even covered everything, that is just the Baker’s story. This is a play that is filled to the brim with characters and story, an immensely complicated musical that was produced marvellously and without fault.
From the completely batty but brilliantly funny Grandmother played by Susie Shlosberg to the scarily vicious Wolf played by Ben Cranny-Whitehead and the strict but worried and loving mother of Jack played by Emily Whitehead to the Stepmother and two Stepsisters played By Alex Dassow, Jean-Mickael Hopkinson and Oliver Saunders that added hilarity and fantastic comedy moments to some scenes. Cordelia Hobbs gave an outstanding singing performance as Cinderella, Oliver Saint and Barney Carter displayed some fine comic timing and Daniel Hill brought a story like presence to the stage whenever he walked on. Until he’s squished.
The often difficult-to-master Witch was perfected by Loren Dean, whether the spotlight was on her, or she was just behind everyone being creepy. She changed from the scary villain in the first half to the merciless and cunning leader of the group of fairy-tale characters.
There’s just too much talent to list in Into the Woods, but the unconventional choices made by the Directors really put an interesting spin to some of the aspects of the show. Little Red Riding Hood was played by three different girls, each of them showing the worryingly changeable states of this seemingly innocent girl. Surely no one is more strangely mysterious than Sacha Hemingway in a dark suit, or more condescending than Finn Elliot with a cane. The casting for this play was spot on. The idea of the ensemble enhances the stage and atmosphere in the piece, and Mr Robinson did a fantastic job of making the whole piece flow like a chocolate waterfall. However, it is a musical, and no musical like this would be complete without such a brilliant orchestra providing an almost constant soundtrack to the piece, to create tension, and evoke a host of other emotions.