The characters in this production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, which opened at Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts Centre this evening, say that ‘the woods are just trees and the trees are just wood’ – which sounds harmless enough. But fairy tales, despite their happy endings, are known for being dark – and these woods are certainly sinister.
Based on the stories of the Brothers Grimm, the well-known narratives of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood are woven together as they all enter the woods which are full of danger and opportunity. In the woods, there are mythical dangers – the giant and the wolf – but there are also real traumas such as marital strife and a parent’s sense of loss when their child leaves home.
And while these themes simmer just below the surface, they do not detract from the humour of the musical, which was executed well by the characters. The cast used the space at Lakeside really well – there was no curtain separating them from the audience and characters were often lurking in different parts of the theatre. The overall effect was of a folk play which reflected both the sense of tradition and timeless nature of the themes.
Stand out performances came from the cast members, who all had strong singing voices and did not waver during the long show. A special mention should go to youngster Mahesh Parmar who played the narrator and tackled some difficult songs. The orchestra too was flawless – and perhaps the only thing that let the performance down was a problem with the sound which meant we couldn’t hear some of it clearly enough.
Into the Woods runs until Saturday. For tickets visit the website.