Did Into the Woods deliver the goods?
A new production has opened in Bath
Kris Hallett, WhatsOnStage
"While the production is impeccably cast, beautifully designed, and with a couple of moments of sheer wonderment and dazzle, its staging is also overtly busy at times and lacking an emotional core. This is a work that by the end leaves its audience emotionally shattered. It's currently visually sensational as one would expect from that visual master Gilliam, while remaining stand-off-ish in tone."
"The work's beating heart though is Alex Young and Rhashan Stone as the couple desperate for a child and willing to do anything to conceive. While Stone may not have the vocal chops that the rest of this crack team of musical theatre vets have, he brings warm everyman energy to him, a decent man who finds his morals tested, while Young is all breathy bewilderment when she finds herself coiled against a Prince in the woods, literally living out someone else's story."
Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
"Sondheim's intricate, flurrying, though sometimes shrill score is well served by Jonathan Tunick's orchestration, which gets a tight, tense, almost claustrophobically jagged rendition from the live orchestra under musical director Stephen Higgins.
"Jon Bausor's lavish design sites the action inside a Victorian toy theatre, imagining the actors as puppets playing out their stories to entertain an imaginative child. Bausor's set plays brilliantly with scale, with oversized props suggesting repurposed household items. Characters lug around Christmas baubles and huge chocolate coins. A giant pocket watch swings ominously overhead, counting down the hours left to undo a curse."
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
"Whenever you think it's looking a bit end-of-year panto – Jack's cow, Milky White, conceived as a supersize version of a finger-press puppet, could have escaped from Hackney Empire – the creative team, with Jon Bausor designing, spring fun, surreal surprises. It's almost hallucinogenic at points: animal-headed figures prowl the woods, Cinders' dead mother is a singing faded flower atop a hulking vase, while Rapunzel is confined to a tower made of two outsized baked beans and garden peas tins, as if inside some installation by the late Claes Oldenburg.
"Barney Wilkinson, as Jack, sings his wide-eyed number perched on a pendulum-like clock-face and there's a collapsing-house coup de théâtre straight out of Buster Keaton. It's no great spoiler to reveal that the vengeful giantess in Act II has become a vast creepy girl doll, seen from waist down, stomping her feet."
Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
"The singing is strong throughout and the best of the comic songs come with the prince's two numbers about the pain of love: "Agony" (sung by Nathaneal Campbell and Henry Jenkinson) while the "Witch's Lament", by Nicola Hughes, has melancholy power. The second, darker half, is stalked, literally, by a grim reaper and there is a sharp rendition of "Your Fault", as it begins to convey the Freudian tragedy of over-protective mothers and absent fathers. Nothing quite develops its emotional power as much as it might but it stays elegant from beginning to end."
Clive Davis, The Times
"In the meandering narrative, the cavalcade of grotesques gradually begins to lose its potency. Audrey Brisson — star of the recent West End version of the film Amélie – makes a winning Cinderella, but her presence also generates unwelcome comparisons. Amélie, another show that drew on the fantastical, floated along on a stunningly inventive and varied actor-musician score. For all its intellectual veneer, Into the Woods is, musically, much thinner fare. Sondheim's insistent orchestral motifs, crisply played by a band under the direction of Stephen Higgins, begin to lose their allure."