Cockpit Theatre, London – 24 June 2018
Into the Woods is effectively a compilation of several of our favourite fairy tales in one show. Created by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, it challenges both the cast by its technicality and the audience by its inordinate length. I always enjoy Into The Woods, especially the first act, and a part of me – who loves a happy ending – wishes every time that it finished at the end of the first act.
The musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. The main characters are taken from Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella, as well as several others.
Without doubt, there are some very strong performances from the All Star Productions cast. In particular Abigail Carter-Simpson as Cinderella, and Michele Moran as The Witch. However, it is the distinct new characterisation which I particularly enjoyed for the most part. Madeleine MacMahon as Jack’s mother with her “chavtastic” performance reminded me of a female version of Rab C Nesbitt. A pivotal role, of course, is the narrator and whilst he stumbled on more than one line Jordan Michael Todd is engaging.
Tim McArthur as the baker delivers a good performance and I particularly enjoyed his direction of this piece. The movement is mesmerising and adds the contemporary feel it is striving to achieve. There are also performances which are too large for the performance space and others too small. The balance at times was wrong and the sound issues plagued the enjoyment. Whilst we were told it is in the round and any seat would provide good entertainment value, I would question this, as I did struggle at times, this was hindered further with the aforementioned sound issues.
A well executed, solid production with some extremely strong vocal performances. However, returning to my original statement, it is just a fraction too long for my entire enjoyment.