Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods was produced by SUSU Showstoppers last week in the Annex Theatre and it was fantastic. With phenomenal singing and great acting, it is no wonder this professional production has earned four stars. Directors Josh Cox and Ruthie Pinion had the audience singing along in fits of laughter and puddles of tears while begging for more.
With the book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by Sondheim, Into The Woods was always a recipe for success. SUSU Showstoppers followed in the footsteps of many before them as the musical has been produced time and time again. The show’s plot tangles several Brothers Grimm fairy tales, including Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood, in a comedic and captivating masterpiece.
One of the most recent productions of Into The Woods is Disney’s 2014 film adaptation but it has to be said that the movie did not live up to the musical’s reputation. Thankfully, SUSU Showstoppers did the show justice and redeemed Into The Woods in my eyes. The cast worked harmoniously together and heightened the comedic scenes with clear comradery on stage.
Although every character deserves praise for an outstanding performance it was The Witch, played by Lydia Edge, who stole the show. Demonstrating strength in both funny and serious scenes while blasting the audience with her impressive voice, Lydia is a face to remember.
She may not have been the strongest singer – contending with stars like Cinderella, played by Emma Bryant, and The Baker’s Wife played by Robyn Fryer can’t be easy – however her versatility proved her talent. Into The Woods features some hilariously fast-paced tongue twisters in its song list but Lydia’s solos were clear, easy to follow and highly enjoyable. The entire cast were professional and enthralling and should seriously consider careers in singing and acting.
A minor issue with Into The Woods involved the balance of volume between actors’ microphones and the live orchestra. This is a problem often encountered at concerts and shows when dialogue or lyrics are missed as a result of a loud orchestra. The musicians were fantastic and Conductor Gem Tunley did a magnificent job however some songs were difficult to hear, in particular ‘Giants in the Sky’. In spite of this, there are few aspects to grumble about with this musical and largely it was spectacular.
The Princes, played by Robin Johnson and Andy Banks, gave a hilarious performance of ‘Agony’ and for me it was one of the best songs of the night. Both actors were fantastic in capturing the comedy of their scenes while giving outstanding vocals. The audience was left chuckling every time they left the stage and they were a memorable duo.
Throughout the show there was something slightly distracting about some of the characters. Apart from the Royal family, the cast spoke and sang with peculiar American accents. This wasn’t an issue for the most part however some characters’ attempts were less authentic than others. The benefit of including American accents seems unclear unless it was deemed necessary to distinguish the Royal family from the rest of the cast in this way. Luckily, the cast’s gripping acting distracted from this issue for the majority of the show.
SUSU Showstoppers gave a refreshingly professional production of Into The Woods and this was proven in their management of blunders. During the romantic duet ‘It Takes Two’ between The Baker, played by Paddy Cahill, and The Baker’s Wife’s, played by Robyn Fryer, there was a prop issue. The lock of hair Robyn stole from Rapunzel got caught on her microphone and, after several failed attempts to remove it, the prop remained hanging from Robyn’s face for the entire scene. Despite the audience’s hysterical laughter, Robyn and Paddy handled the malfunction professionally and admirably and the show definitely did go on. The couple deserve high praise for this as their singing and acting maintained a high standard throughout the almost disastrous scene.
Did you see Into The Woods? Let us know what you thought in the comments below!