Into The Woods by Stephen Sondheim at The Menier Chocolate Factory

Emily-Young-Noah-Brody-from-Into-the-Woods.-Image-by-Joan-Marcus

Putting on a classic is one thing. Putting on a classic musical is another thing altogether. Arguably Stephen Sondheim’s most famous musical, it was clear there would be a lot of demand for this new transfer from Fiasco Theatre. Indeed the hardcore fans were evident from their fancy dress.

All pretence at having a naturalistic forest was thrown out of the window and a far more interesting and elaborate vista of ropes was used at the back of the stage to represent the forest. This was in theory a simple, scaled down version of this musical, yet it was far more visually striking and imaginative than we were expecting. The performers, all actor-musos, jumped in and out of characters covering the whole cast with ten performers – the 11th was the pianist. A curtain rail with a pair of chintz curtains were used to costume the ugly sisters, a fox bust was used for the big bad wolf, whilst other items, hats and cloaks, were thrown on to define characters. This was magical. Special effects, wild sets and lighting do some things, but simple objects – like a feather duster chicken – are far more entertaining.

Like a taste for a fine wine, it has taken us many years to appreciate truly the genius of Stephen Sondheim and this was the first professional production of any of his shows we have seen live. His musicality is unique and his lyric writing is frightfully clever and witty.

Fiasco theatre have created an unbelievably charming version of this production. The multi-roling and use of instruments really showed off Sondheim’s genius, and for us there could not have been a better way to perform this musical. There were so many brilliant moments in this production, it is impossible to talk about them all. Everything from design to performance was absolutely exceptional and the little details and the subtler moments of performance were truly remarkable. For fans of Sondheim this has to be seen. However for fans of theatre in general this will go down extremely well.

Highlight of the piece – Played standing by a man, and identified by a cowbell, Milky White, almost stole the show with his every contribution.

WIGS 5/5

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