Into the Woods at Wells Little Theatre

Into The Woods 3STEPHEN Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods is a big show in every way, taking a sweeping overview of fairy stories, psychology and love.

So it’s all the more impressive that the best production I have ever seen should be performed in the intimate setting of Wells Little Theatre.

The 20-strong cast plays princes and farm boys, witches, bakers, naughty children, cows, mothers, grandmothers and even a harp as James Lapine’s inventive book folds together and unravels the stories made famous by the Brothers Grimm.

Director Lois Harbinson and choreographer Sarah Neale, with help from the (uncredited) set and sound designers, have created a threatening, magical world through which the characters must travel – these are universal rites of passage, where allegory meets everyday life.

The cast is accompanied by MD Sheila Ross and her five musicians, and the fusion is one of which many a professional company would be proud.

These are the familiar stories of Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood, but not as we know them. Sondheim’s brilliant lyrics bring them into a new focus.

In this sensational cast, there are outstanding performances that I expect to see rewarded at the Rose Bowl awards later.

Into The Woods 1Sharon Edmonds is magnificently witchy from crone to glamour, Georgia Wall is the archetypal teenager, filled with grumpy willfulness and awakening desires, Phil Turley and James Newton are the wonderful posturing princes, (with Phil Turley  a lascivious lupine, too), Sarah Neale the wise Cinderella, Nick Barlow truly touching as the newly-bereaved Jack, Kellie Simpson as his irrepressible mother, and, holding it all together Matthew Maisey and Nicky Hann as the childless baker and his wife.

The show is full of wit and wisdom and moments in the wood to make you think “I never realised that!”

Don’t be put off by thinking you don’t always like Sondheim’s music, but beat a path to the Little Theatre between now and Saturday 24th May. As the script says “opportunity is not a lengthy visitor,” and any theatre lover would be mad to miss it.


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