It's great to see productions from the ROH2 journeying up North for performances at the Lowry and 'Into the Woods' is no exception.
This fairytale musical by Stephen Sondheim contains a intricate and clever score of memorable music and in this production is performed by an excellent 15 piece orchestra although they could have done with being a little louder and where they were actually situated was a mystery to me! (I think they were behind the stage)
Lez Brotherson' simple set works fairly well although some of the 'in the wood' scenes seemed a little sparse and gave the impression of being in a clearing. But this is of little consequence as the performance is carried by the generally captivating performances of rich and varied cast.
Most notable are Beverley Klein who, as the witch, shows off a deep and booming alto voice perfectly suited to the character. Anna Francolini and Clive Rowe as the Baker and his wife share good chemistry and present sympathetic human characters. Nic Greenshields and Nicholas Garret are extremely funny as the two princes particularly in their act 2 duet 'Agony' where they debate the pros and cons of infedelity.
Almost stealing the show, however, are Peter Caulfield as the lad Jack whose ridiculous love of his cow is strangely touching and Suzanne Toase as Gluttonous Little Red Riding Hood whose dry delivery gains the biggest laughs of the evening but who also, in the latter part of the show, shows a real vulnerability when being comforted by Gillian Kirkpatricks fairly ordinary, but by no means weak, Cinderella.
One notable disappointment is Gary Waldhornas the narrator who from the off looks thoroughly disinterested and bored and lacks any presence or, it seems, storytelling ability. It was almost a relief when his 'character' was disposed of not to long into Act two, which, incidentally, sags a little and almost towards the end becomes intolerably sentimental. It is resuced however by the final reprise of the title song which seems to suggest that whatever happens we're never really content and we always want more. Well, if more Sondheim musicals are on offer I'm definately a taker.
- M George
05 Jul 07
I loved this production very much indeed. There were a few downsides. i.e. everytime one of the characters is killed off, they simply lept off the side of the stage but this was due, no doubt the the constraints of the Lindbury [having no traps etc. i.e. no other means of exiting] and I did feel that both Gary Waldhorn and Clive Rowe could have given more attack in their performances as other members of the cast were able to do.
Having said that, I liked the carboard trees! It gave the feeling of real story book magic.
I thought the singing was superb and it was a joy to be able to hear all the words so clearly.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking visit to the theatre. - David
21 Jun 07
OK I will elaborate. The cast just weren't up to it vocally and while Sondheim's great lyrics have the power to work as purely text the music soars when sung beautifully. Hardly anyone in the cast had the requisite vocal ability. The staging was very rudimentary also, all the dragging along of cardboard cutout trees just doesn't cut it. The Donmar production of a few years ago was all heart and brought out all the humour and staged to perfection. Having seen at least half a dozen productions of the piece this unfortunately is the least satisfactory. Considering what the ROH did with Sweeney Todd previously I think Mr Sondheim should think twice before allowing them to put on another production of his work. - Mr)
19 Jun 07
I loved it - id LLKK see the same show as I did? Great production, wonderful band and superb character acting from a very talented cast. What more could he/she want? You're right, Gareth - should be seen by a lot more people. - su
19 Jun 07
Perhaps LLKK could elaborate on that flouncy 'dire' or we may think he/she/it is one of those Yes/No automatons with no critical faculties whatsoever. - Mikey
19 Jun 07
Dire. - LLKK
19 Jun 07
This is the 4th production of this wonderful show I've seen since the British premiere zonks ago and this one certainly doesn't disappoint. Les Brotherson's designs are terrific and the casting is spot on; including an excellent Little Red Riding Hood from a virtual newcomer to London musical theatre. It's hard to believe that this is Willaim Tucket's first stab at a musical. It sits perfectly in the Linbury Studio, but what a tragedy that so few people will get to see it in a dreadfully short run of just over two weeks. It must transfer before this great cast disbands! - Gareth James
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