Friday, 29 July 2016

FOUR STAR REVIEW Into the Woods at the Menier Chocolate Factory


IF you go into the woods today…. you may come across a baker and his wife who are desperate to start a family, Little Red Riding Hood, a witch, Jack and his cow and a whole host of other fairytale favourites.
This collection of characters are part of the musical Into The Woods, penned by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. It is a glorious mash up of all the stories, which has been set to music and is both funny and musically brilliant but with a very serious message.
A new production is currently being staged at the Menier Chocolate Factory and it is a real gem.
It has been brought to the Southwark Street theatre by Fiasco Theater, an American company who have stripped down the props and the set to make the story the focus of the audience’s attention.
It is utterly glorious and allows the silliness, the humour, the clever weaving of the stories and the characters to shine through.
Essentially the story explores the consequences of what people wish for and whether we should really be satisfied with our lot in life and it does so by taking the audience back to its childhood and reintroducing us to characters from stories we grew up with as children.
It begins with the baker and his wife who are desperate to have a child. They find out that they have been cursed and to break this they must go into the woods and get a series of items including  a cow and a red coat. 
They set about their task with gusto and begin collecting their allotted items meeting and interacting with characters from other fairytales along the way. By the end of the first act they have their happy ending - and so do the other characters.
However the second act delves a little deeper and shows them the realities of their desires and dreams and they find things are not as rosy as they seem.
The whole 10-strong cast who double up many of the characters, were great and there were some stand outs including Andy Grotelueschen as Jack’s beloved cow, Noah Brody as the wolf and Claire Karpen as a Cinderella who wasn’t really that interested in her handsome prince (Noah Brody), not least because he looked and acted like an ass on his hobby horse!
It is a glorious ensemble production, creative, imaginative, exuberant, fast paced, funny and touching and the 10 strong cast not only sing and act they also play the many instruments. 
And its message is still as relevant now as it was when it was written - that of the old adage - be careful what you wish for.

Into The Woods is on at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark Street until September 17. Tickets from £39.50. Visit or call the box office on 020 7378 1713.

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