Into The Woods – Five Towns Theatre
Productions don’t come much more ambitious than Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods (based on the book by James Lapine) but Five Towns Theatre have produced a version that they can be extremely proud of.
The story, made all the more famous by the 2014 film starring James Corden, follows the tale of a Baker and his wife. Cursed by a wicked witch, they set about reversing it by retrieving a short list of items so they can finally start a family – but their adventure into the woods brings about more trouble than they could have ever bargained for… meeting plenty of fairy-tale characters along the way.
What sets this production apart first and foremost is the set. It is stunning. A beautiful, wooden multi-level set provides a perfect backdrop for the production. Intelligently finished with hundreds of leaves to complete the floor. Before the show starts you feel lost in the woods.
A cast of 41 local performers are backed by a professional (and tight) band of no less than 12 musicians – led with quality by Keith Ragdale who also co-directed the production.
There are moments in the show that are moving and moments that are incredibly comical and all this is narrated throughout by two smart young performers (Max Hills and George Smith).
James Hart immediately sets the high standard for the show with a strong portrayal in the role of Jack, along with Hollie Burnett who gives a superb performance throughout as Jack’s Mother.
The Witch is played by Lucy Birkin who manages to combine evil with comedy seamlessly. A very entertaining character, a top voice and a brilliant cackle.
Hilarious moments are littered throughout the show. The princes make for some entertaining scenes – just wait for the scene with the Prince and the Baker’s wife. Blind step-sisters make for a funny scene but most pleasing of all to the audience is surely when the wolf is in grandmother’s bed. Direction is witty and clever, and these scenes are so enjoyable.
With 22 characters it is impossible for me to mention them all and I am sure that you will find your own favourite parts to the show that I have not mentioned – such is the sheer depth of the production (and script). For example, Cinderella (Natasha Dawe) and Little Red (Abby Evans) are characters with alot to do and they too provide solid performances.The absolute highlight of the production is the Baker and the Baker’s Wife. Andrew Turner puts in a classy performance and is as professional as a non-pro stage will ever see. Danii Millward-Ince is delightful as the Baker’s Wife – a stunning performance throughout and is particularly strong in the emotional final scenes. Together they are outstanding as this pair.
Of course, every good non-professional show needs a dedicated and capable chorus and they all supported the story-line very well. Well suited choreography and movement from Choreographer, Ed Costello.
Directors James Dawe and Keith Ragdale can be extremely proud of directing a production that sets the bar for other am-drams to follow.
Into The Woods continues at the Stoke Rep Theatre until Saturday 26th November – to book tickets visit www.fivetownstheatre.org.uk
Photo Credit: Rob Lawton