I had heard good things about Into the Woods, and was keen to go and see the first musical I’ve seen in a long, long time. Arriving in the flash Pichette Auditorium at Pembroke, I was firstly disappointed by a fairly naff set. Nevertheless, I told myself it would get better, and considering the subject matter was a series of fairy-tales, the production could be forgiven for the childish feel of the set.
Unfortunately, I was distinctly unimpressed by the first twenty minutes of the show. No one really seemed bothered, in particular Cinderella’s stepmother and sisters who weren’t the least bit evil; they merely seemed quite irritated that they had been asked to perform a show that day. For a few isolated characters, this sense of being rather annoyed by the whole affair continued throughout. Thankfully, however, I did begin to enjoy myself when the large cast first ventured “into the woods”. Standing out amongst the characters were the baker and his wife, played by Tommy Siman and Clemi Collett respectively. Siman gave a hilariously understated edge to what could have been extremely dull lines, but still kept a surprisingly moving tone to his performance when misfortune befalls him in the second act. His duet with his weird father (a superb Christian Gilberti) was therefore possibly one of the most heartfelt pieces of music as it demonstrated the emotional side of two characters, who up until this point had only been seen as comic.
Collett’s relationship with Siman was an excellent balance of the comic and the loving, and her singing voice one of the most impressive in the ensemble. With regard to the musical side of the piece, the orchestra were faultless and played beautifully throughout, responding almost always on point to small actions on stage with a pleasing jingle on a xylophone or a bell.
At the end of the first act, I was all but converted, but much of that was due to my (and indeed many of the other audience members’) thinking that it was the end. This was not the case, however, and a lengthy, considerably less comic second half followed. I’m not really sure why Sondheim thought this would be a particularly interesting topic for a musical, as it comes across as rather twee and silly, with Rapunzel shrieking at the top of her voice every ten seconds, for example. In the end, I was bored, but then again many of the actors on stage looked that way too.