With a back catalogue as varied, celebrated and reprised as Stephen Sondheim’s, it’s always intriguing to wonder what each new revival will offer that hasn’t been done, seen and sung before.
Having recently set the Coliseum alight with a star-studded, half-staged run of Sweeney Todd, it’s hard to imagine how Sondheim’s gothic fairy tale musical Into the Woods will fare by comparison playing on the small stage of the Menier Chocolate Factory; a theatre that has seen both its recent productions Funny Girl and David Baddiel’s My Family: Not the Sitcom consecutively transfer to the West End.
Fiasco Theatre’s co-directors Noah Broody (a menacing Wolf and charming but not sincere Prince) and Ben Steinfeld (the Baker) ensure that this production of Into The Woods does not disappoint.
The stage is transformed into a fairy tale wonderland, with Derek McLane’s set design constructed of theatrical props and musical instruments, where you are left to utilise your imagination as the proscenium is made from piano keys, the wood is represented by ropes and a tree by a clothes mannequin.
The props are inventive, funny and functional; Rapunzel’s hair is a knitted hat. The strong cast mill in the audience as they take their seats, chatting and greeting them, there is an excitement in the air that is magically maintained throughout.
Into the Woods is a witty, wordy and wondrous musical with this pared down version really showcasing the brilliance of Sondheim’s music and lyrics, which flow with ease and yet retain their satire and bite.
The company are superb as they chop and change characters, instruments, costumes and props, there is no let up and no lull, which makes for quite a special theatrical experience. American company, Fiasco Theatre Productions, expertly take a musical written in the 80s and reaffirm Sondheim’s relevance today by exploring themes of blame and responsibility, magic and hope, all of which derive from the consequences of what happens long after the fairytale has ended.
Into the Woods plays at The Menier Chocolate Factory until 17 September