Fairy tales with a twist

Cape Argus - - LIFE - BEV­ER­LEY BROMMERT

INTO THE WOODS

DI­REC­TOR: Steven Stead

CAST: Michael Richard, Jes­sica Sole, Earl Gre­gory, Kate Norm­ing­ton, and large En­sem­ble

MU­SI­CAL SU­PER­VI­SOR/MD: Drew Bakker

CHORE­OG­RA­PHER: Leigh Meyer

VENUE: Theatre on the Bay, un­til March 2

RAT­ING: ★★★★✩ FEW PAR­ENTS read­ing a bed­time fairy tale to drowsy off­spring in­ter­ro­gate the sin­is­ter ele­ments la­tent in the fa­mil­iar fa­bles fea­tur­ing the likes of Cin­derella, Jack (of Beanstalk fame) and Lit­tle Red Rid­ing­hood, among oth­ers.

Stephen Sond­heim’s star­tling, in­no­va­tive and highly di­vert­ing treat­ment of chil­dren’s pop­u­lar fic­tion takes an uned­i­fy­ing look at what hap­pens af­ter that “hap­pily ever af­ter” end­ing, ac­com­pa­nied by his sig­na­ture mu­sic and clever lyrics.

The deftly staged pro­duc­tion of­fers an evening of re­ward­ing en­ter­tain­ment while ex­er­cis­ing the in­tel­lect of its au­di­ence, as we re­alise that Jack is a thief and a mur­derer, Cin­derella tri­umphs through bor­rowed fin­ery, princes are brought up to be charm­ing rather than faith­ful, while fear and death are om­nipresent, pre­saged by witches and malev­o­lent gi­ants.

Stead’s stag­ing is witty and well-de­vised, with a ver­sa­tile set by Greg King ring­ing seam­less changes from for­est to palace to bak­ery; books are a leit-mo­tif from start to fin­ish, a re­minder that they are the source of all this nar­ra­tive, and the com­bi­na­tion of Tina le Roux’s spooky light­ing and Mark Mal­herbe’s equally eerie sound de­sign cre­ates the am­bi­ence of an­other world.

So­los and duets – notably the two from Nathan Kruger (Ra­pun­zel’s Prince) and Zak Hen­drikz (Cin­derella’s Prince) – are clearly and pleas­ingly de­liv­ered. Spo­ken, as op­posed to sung, words are on the whole enun­ci­ated im­pec­ca­bly.

Michael Richard, as the off-stage Nar­ra­tor, dou­bles as Mys­te­ri­ous Man with his ha­bit­ual pol­ish, and it is he, to­gether with Jes­sica Sole (the Baker’s Wife) who holds the large cast to­gether and gives co­her­ence to the het­ero­ge­neous amal­gam of divers fairy tales mak­ing up the plot.

Kate Norm­ing­ton siz­zles with en­ergy as the Witch, Candice Van Lit­sen­borgh stamps her role as Jack’s mother with comic au­thor­ity, and Graeme Wicks is suit­ably gorm­less as Jack. Glam­orous Haylea Heyns (Cin­derella) sings up a storm, and the ma­tur­ing tal­ent of Earl Gre­gory makes the ami­able Baker a cred­i­ble char­ac­ter. As they ven­ture into the woods to test their courage, each evolves to at­tract or re­pel the au­di­ence, ac­cord­ing to Sond­heim’s in­ten­tions. Let’s not omit the soul­ful-faced cow, a skil­fully con­trived pup­pet with a per­son­al­ity all its own.

Just as well no­tices in the theatre foyer ad­vise the au­di­ence that there are two acts and an in­ter­val in this show, or many pa­trons would leave af­ter the event­ful first half imag­in­ing that all’s well that ends well. Part Two proves the con­trary.

| JESSE KRAMER

HAYLEA Heyns (Cin­derella), Me­gan Rigby (Lit­tle Red Rid­ing­hood), Graeme Wicks (Jack) and Kate Norm­ing­ton (The Witch) star in Stephen Sond­heim’s Into The Woods.

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