INTO THE WOODS
music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim book by James Lapine.
Open Air Theatre Regent’s Park London, NW1 4NP to 11th September 2010
Mon– Sat 8pm Mat Thu, Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 826 4242.
Review: Geoff Ambler 28 August.
Sondheim and open air theatre at its wooded best.
Nestling amongst trees, bushes and other such verdant foliage sits an adults climbing frame of a set; multilevel platforms sit on scaffolds, linked by stepladders and stairs and above it all, Rapunzel’s tree house awaits a girl with a good head of hair, strong roots and a stronger prince. This is a dream Into The Woods setting and an impressive and unique stage that only this wide-open, naturally wooded setting could accommodate.
Timothy Sheader’s production is in a darker wood than this already dark musical usually ventures, a place with madness, dead twins and nightmares. A place where we see the day after happily ever after; all of which doesn’t impact on what is still fine comedy at all, but it does keep the tragedies in focus.
The narrator is a runaway boy playing with his toys and the fairytales he remembers, conjuring up Act One; Act Two becomes his nightmare. Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack (of beanstalk notoriety) and Little Red Riding Hood encounter realism alongside their stories, as well as a baker and his wife. It is a story full of morals, consequences, familial themes and about as close to a happy ending as you get with Sondheim. I’ve seen countless productions and always find more to enjoy, hidden within its verse and Sheader doesn’t disappoint.
Regent’s Park always attracts dream casts and this one exceeds expectations. Jenna Russell is musical perfection again and joined by Helen Dallimore, Beverly Rudd and Hannah Waddingham complete one of the strongest collection of leading ladies in town. A recording of Judi Dench even voices the Giant!
Open air theatre has always seemed more a romantic notion rather than a practical evening’s entertainment. That is unless you can guarantee pre-booking a rain free performance or book on the day. However after randomly picking a matinee that included only a dozen raindrops late into the second act, Into The Woods proved the finest of the countless productions I’ve enjoyed over the years. Indeed it is the first time I’ve ever welled up through the final few numbers.
Swing: Marc Antolin.
Granny: Valda Aviks.
Narrator: Ethan Beer.
Mysterious Man: Billy Boyle.
Cinderella’s Stepmother: Gaye Brown.
Swing: Sophie Caton.
Jack’s Mother: Marilyn Cutts.
Cinderella: Helen Dallimore.
Rapunzel: Alice Fearn.
Lucinda: Amy Griffiths.
Steward: Mark Goldthorp.
Baker: Mark Hadfield.
Narrator: Eddie Manning.
Florinda: Amy Ellen Richardson.
Little Red Riding Hood: Beverley Rudd.
Baker’s Wife: Jenna Russell.
Jack: Ben Stott.
Narrator: Joshua Swinney.
Rapunzel’s Prince: Simon Thomas.
Witch: Hannah Waddingham.
Cinderella’s Mother: Gemma Wardle.
Wolf/Cinderella’s Prince: Michael Xavier.
Voice of the Giant: Judi Dench.
Director: Timothy Sheader.
Co-Director/Movement: Liam Steel.
Designer: Soutra Gilmour.
Lighting: Jon Clark.
Sound: Mike Walker.
Orchestrator: Chris Walker.
Musical Supervisor/Musical Director: Gareth Valentine.
Puppets: Rachael Canning.