Venue: Royal Northern College Of Music
Where: Manchester

Into the Woods (music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine) links classic fairly tales to illustrate the disappointment of wishes fulfilled and the joys of straying from the safe path. Students of the RNCM take an ambitious approach and not only act and sing but also perform as an orchestra. If the stage were bigger they’d probably dance as well.

Emma Hall’s Cinderella has a soaring voice well matched by the deep tones of Harry Meredith, her Prince. Catriona Hewitson’s soprano suits the increasingly demented Rapunzel. The interaction between the cast is the best part of the show. Thomas Asher and Rebecca Lea make a moving and amusing couple and Christopher Jones’ predatory Wolf combines well with Nicola Stone’s psychotically cheerful Red Riding Hood.

Imaginative direction from Lea and Jonathan Ainscough overcome the limitations imposed by a small budget and the intimate venue. All of the cast contribute to the action of the musical even when off-stage performing as part of the orchestra. Designer Katherine Wilde uses simple shadows cast on a screen to create an effective giant.

This display of the talents available at the RNCM makes you hope that their first student production will not be their last.

- Dave Cunningham