Review of Into The Woods at Blackfriars

The cast of Into The Woods, who will be at Blackfriars Theatre and Arts Centre until Saturday, April 29. EMN-170424-170808001
The cast of Into The Woods, who will be at Blackfriars Theatre and Arts Centre until Saturday, April 29. EMN-170424-170808001

If you go down ‘Into the Woods’ you’re sure of a treat!

Into The Woods is a challenging musical, but the whole team behind BOS Musical Theatre Group’s latest production (currently being staged at Blackfriars Theatre in Boston) has pulled together to put on a theatrical extravaganza which delights on every level.

The story retells a number of different fairy tales (Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood) but with a central new story of a Baker and his wife who have to find several items in the woods, to undo a curse preventing them from having a child.

The musical was recently made into a Disney film starring James Cordon, Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep.

This original version is darker than the Disney version and is undeniably dramatic, but is very witty and has some brilliant comedic moments which I wasn’t expecting.

From the moment you enter the auditorium, the set takes your breath away.

This version of Into the Woods is unique in that it has been influenced by the increasingly popular Steampunk theme, which director Kei Bailey and designer Jo Warrick have used as an inspiration to create a beautifully stylised production.

This theme runs through all of the costumes and props as well (no mean feat when that includes a chicken and a cow!). The striking lighting design throughout really complimented the theme (and was used to great effect in the second act in particular).

The strong performances of the cast matches the beautiful production design.

The score (by Stephen Sondheim) is undeniably challenging, but under the direction of MD David Hallgate every character sung their hearts out.

The choreography by Clare Allan was effective and well executed.

The cast and crew have spent longer rehearsing this production than normal, and you could tell how much hard work had gone into tackling the musical’s complexities, both musically and thematically.

Despite the fact that Into the Woods is a fantasy and is dealing with fairy tales, there was genuine realism in the performances from Matt Barnes (the Baker), Helen Graves (the Baker’s Wife) Cinderella (Rachel Rowett), Rapunzel (Clare Allen) and the Witch (Andrea Townshend), which brought the underlying message of the musical home.

Jack (David Taylor) and Red Riding Hood (Lucy Freeston) gave a lovely innocence to their characterisations.

There were also brilliant comedic performances from Kim Sands and Jen Sands as the two stepsisters and Rob Callaby and Christian Slingsby as the two Princes, which the audience really enjoyed, (even when the subject matter was really dark!)

However, every single member of the cast performed their parts well, there was no weak link.

This is one of the strongest productions I’ve seen on Blackfriars’ stage for some time, and it’s clear that a lot of work has been put in both on stage and behind the scenes to make it so.

A big well done and congratulations to director Kei Bailey, producer Helen Graves and the rest of the cast and crew.

If you haven’t already got tickets, make sure you catch this at Blackfriars before the end of the run. You won’t see anything like it again!

Review by Melissa Poulson, an audience member.

Shows are daily at 7.30pm, with a 1pm matinee and 6.30pm showing on Saturday, April 29.

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