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THEATRE REVIEW: Beware! You might get what you wish for with Into the Woods

2019-03-17 00:00

Into the Woods
Pieter Toerien Main Theatre, Montecasino
R100 to R375 at computicket.com
Until April 14
4 stars out of 5

The creative strength of Steven Stead and Greg King of KickstArt come together again to bring Stephen Sondheim’s delightfully dark fairytale mashup musical, Into the Woods, to the stage. The pair previously staged the Sweeney Todd, also a Sondheim creation, and Cabaret, among others.

With a cast of 18 led by Michael Richard, Kate Normington and Earl Gregory, this production of Into the Woods offers musical fans a macabrely good time. The story, narrated by Richard centres around a Baker (Gregory) and his wife (Jessica Sole) who are in want of child, to get their wish they have to go into the woods and do the bidding of their neighbour, a powerful and ugly old witch (Normington).

At the same time Cinderella (Haylea Heyns) is dreaming of going to the festival and dancing with a prince, while Jack (Graeme Wicks) is being sent off to market through the woods to sell the family cow.

Little Red Riding Hood (Megan Rigby) is also off into the woods with a basket of bread for granny. In the wood their destinies converge and everything changes.

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Into the Woods was first staged in 1987 yet its main themes remain relevant. The play’s best-known number, after the eponymous Into The Woods, is Children Will Listen. The song is about how what we do and what we say filters into our children, just because they don’t obey doesn’t mean they don’t hear it.

Topical in the SA context as we increasingly see dangerous behaviour from our children in their school environments – every week there is another example of how the ills of our society are being acted out by our children.

Through the fairytales it retells (and they aren’t the Disney versions), the musical shows how we pass on fears, desires and wishes – and prejudices.

How the Baker and His Wife’s desire for a child becomes more important than how they get it and how Cinderella believes that her life will be magically transformed if she just goes to the ball.

As the lights come up after the end of the first act, everything is neatly tied up, the happily ever afters are all in place. But are they?

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The second act throws the fairytale characters into chaos – as the Baker’s Wife says archly, “I’m in the wrong story.” As their panic clears, however, the characters pull together to fight their common enemy and get their lives back, though they aren’t the lives they wished for.

With an innovative set design with a gnarled tree rooted in fairytale books at its centre, puppets to supplement the cast, this is an impressive production – a lot is expected of the cast over the production’s three hours and they deliver flawlessly.

Through deliciously dark humour and song Into The Woods is a cautionary tale about being very careful about what you wish for – you just might get it.

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November 10 2019