Review Roundup: Open Air Theatre's INTO THE WOODS at Regents Park
In celebration of Sondheim's eightieth birthday, the Open Air Theatre season closes with INTO THE WOODS, co-directed by Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel. Perfectly placed within the Open Air Theatre amphitheatre, the musical gives the stories of The Brothers Grimm a dark and humorous twist. The production officially opened and the reviews are in! BroadwayWorld brings you a sampling below.
The cast of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's INTO THE WOODS includes: Helen Dallimore(Cinderella), Beverly Rudd (Little Red Riding Hood), Simon Thomas (Rapunzel's Prince), Michael Xavier (Wolf and Cinderella's Prince) Hannah Waddingham (The Witch), Jenna Russell (Baker's Wife), Marc Antolin (Swing), Valda Aviks (Granny), Billy Boyle (Mysterious Man), Gaye Brown (Cinderella's Stepmother), Sophie Caton (Swing), Alice Fearn (Rapunzel), Mark Goldthorp (Steward), Amy Griffiths (Lucinda), Mark Hadfield (Baker), Amy Ellen Richardson (Florinda), Ben Stott (Jack), andGemma Wardle (Cinderella's Mother).
INTO THE WOODS will run through September 11. For more information, visit www.openairtheatre.com.
Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard: "The Open Air Theatre's summer musical is an event to savour - last year's production of Hello Dolly was delicious - but I have mixed feelings about this year's offering: an intermittently delightful yet unsatisfying rendition of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods...The challenge posed by this zany, rather didactic work lies in reconciling its elements of darkness, humour, Freudian symbolism and existential poignancy. We may get angst and some moments of pathos, but Timothy Sheader's interpretation, while stylish and good-looking, suffers from a mixture of stridency, undercooked comedy and patchy singing."
Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph: "...for the first half of Timothy Sheader's outstanding revival of Into the Woods (1987) I was beguilingly bewitched...It is an inspired idea to stage this show in the magical, sylvan surroundings of Regent's Park, and designer Soutra Gilmour has come up with a marvellously rickety, adventure playground of a set, all ladders, stairs and elevated walkways, with Rapunzel discovered high up in a tree. I also liked the idea of having the narrator played by a small boy, who has run away to the woods after a family row, and seems to be dreaming the entire show...But in the second half the musical falls apart. James Lapine's book becomes an increasingly confused mess of plottage, and after a host of characters have been killed off, the big climactic anthem, assuring us that No One Is Alone seems as dishonest as it is trite, offering the kind of schmaltzy Broadway uplift Sondheim usually scrupulously avoids. At three hours this often repetitive show would also benefit from cuts."
Peter Brown, Londontheatre.com: "Artistic director Timothy Sheader, and co-director Liam Steel can be justly proud of their achievements with 'Into The Woods'. It's a complex piece to direct anyway, but they set themselves additional demands by introducing a complex set. But it all works incredibly well thanks to the additional support of delicate lighting, and a fine orchestra under the direction of Gareth Valentine. All-in-all, it's a splendidly fitting finale to a highly creative and successful season at the Open Air Theatre. I for one am already looking forward to next season."
Mark Shenton, The Stage: "...the Open Air Theatre's new production of this complex musical is full of both meat and potatoes, and turns out to be the most satisfying and revelatory version of this show I've seen since Richard Jones' brilliant London staging in 1990."
Heather Neill, Whatsonstage.com: "Director Timothy Sheader and Musical Director Gareth Valentine have conjured a magical production which mixes playfulness with irony and just enough sentiment to bring a tear or two in the finale, "Children Will Listen". The ensemble numbers, especially "Into the Woods" and "Ever After", suggest that this is a company having a woodland ball...This is one of many celebrations of the composer's 80th birthday. It does him proud."
Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore