Performing one of Stephen Sondheim’s less dynamic musicals was never going to be an easy task. Shrunk down to around an hour and stripped of the recognisable ‘Children Will Listen’, Opera di Nepotist have cobbled together a respectable production of Into the Woods, finding the spirit of fun in its interwoven fairytale narratives and colourful characters.
There are some very enjoyable performances within the pages of this story. Their delightfully jaded Cinderella delivers her lines like a Brothers Grimm inspired Kate Nash whilst their Witch smoothly raps her wicked plots with a rich comedic sass. However, it is the Baker’s Wife who most connects with the heart of the musical, sentient of the character’s personal tragedies and beautifully and clearly carving her place in the proceedings.
And yet several members of the cast fail to engage with the lyrics of this plot driven musical, losing its storytelling instinct and moving the production towards a pantomime precipice. As a consequence, this production of Into the Woods feels like a half-told fairytale.
The true delight of the evening is the production’s visible five piece band. Rhythmically, this is one of Sondheim’s most decorative works and the small group handle the sliding violin notes, struck piano chords and punchy trumpet blasts perfectly.
Opera di Nepotist have produced a nicely scored and respectable production of Sondheim which at times gets disappointingly lost in the woods.