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Into The Woods at the Menier Chocolate Factory

First Published 13 July 2016, Last Updated 6 June 2018

What’s it all about?

Cinderella wants to go the ball. Little Red Riding Hood is paying a visit to Granny. Princes hunt for true love. Jack is off to the market to sell his cow. A Baker and his Wife, desperate to have a child, seek five ingredients for a Witch’s magical potion. And, presumably having Google Mapped the way beforehand, it turns out the best path leads them all… well, Into The Woods.

Featuring more characters’ wishes than a political party’s election manifesto, Stephen Sondheim’s fairy-tale musical mash-up here receives the delicate treatment. Fiasco Theater’s intricately woven production, with liberal use of props, but minimalist staging, orchestration – and quantity of cast members – is pure, undiluted Sondheim, playful in presentation yet thematically beautiful in its exploration of the characters’ actions and their (eventually significantly darker) consequences.

Who’s in it?

A whole lot of multi-talented people. Having toured America with their take on the show, the company play over twice the number of parts their number would suggest, with brilliantly mapped out multi-roling throughout, while supporting cast members flesh out the centre-of-stage piano’s tunes with delightfully subtle contributions from instruments placed around the stage.

Entering the auditorium to see the cast setting the stage, greeting audience members and tuning up their instruments has that affable, endearing feeling of a group of seeing friends coming together to put on a show and tell a story or two. This ambience fits Sondheim’s alternative fairy tale about communities like a charm-fuelled glove.

It seems a little hypocritical to pick out an individual performance therefore, but Andy Grotelueschen’s Milky White/Rapunzel’s Prince wins the loudest laughs on too many occasions not to give him a nod.

What should I look out for?

Brilliant staging ideas abound, with techniques ranging from shadow puppetry to rolling pianos. Without wishing to give too much away, it’s a marvellous showcase of pure storytelling flair – watch out for the Wolf’s visit to Red Riding Hood’s grandmother’s house.

More variations of the delivery of the line “moo” than you could ever expect to hear in a single show.

In a nutshell?

Children will listen, adults will adore: Fiasco Theater’s heart-warming, handcrafted Into The Woods is, simply put, delightful.

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Will I like it?

This production is the fairy tale mix-up as you’ve never seen it before. Innovative, warm and wonderfully intimate, Fiasco Theater reaps the huge rewards of risky decision after risky decision in its delightful interpretation, committedly capturing the beautiful essence of not only Sondheim’s delectable music, but also his profound lyrics and James Lapine’s frequently dark book.

A fairy tale to rule them all, I defy you not to chuckle, not to smile, and maybe even not to shed a tear or two; an experience to be cherished, Into The Woods is truly the stuff of theatrical wishes.  

Into The Woods plays at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 17 September. You can book tickets through the venue’s website.


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