Remember the first time you heard a fairy tale, and how it transported you to a land of once-upon-a-times and happy endings? Remember how it made you believe, if only for a short while, that magic was real? In their latest musical, ‘Into the Woods,’ the Music Theatre Society manage to recapture the enchantment of childhood, retelling all of the best-loved folk tales and adding their own original twist to them in an action packed narrative that is captivating and highly entertaining.
The play centres on traditional stories such as ‘Cinderella,’ ‘The Baker and his Wife,’‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ Although each tale starts off loyal to its roots, the characters’ storylines quickly become involved with each other. These interlinking threads could have become a bit confusing if it weren’t for the dexterous Narrator, who provides context and explanation for the various events going on. The Narrator is reminiscent of a fatherly figure telling you a bedtime story and appears to distance the fiction of the fairy tale from real life; until he is sacrificed in the most Meta of offerings to an escaped giant by the angry characters.
As well as skilful plot combination, ‘Into the Woods’ presents a strong cast of characters who develop and endear themselves more to the audience as the play progresses. The music works to demonstrate the power of change that is the essence of fairy tales.
However, this rose-tinted transformation of characters should not fool you into thinking that the fairy tale is all sparkles and fairy dust, quite the opposite. The musical takes a hint from the gore of the original Grimm fantasies and has its fair share of eye pecking, human crushing, knife crimes and adulterous husbands and wives! You are left questioning whether a happy ending ever really exists, or if that is too fantastical for even the fairy tales themselves.
The unfolding drama on the stage is complemented by the band, who manage to time themselves perfectly to match with whatever each character is doing. The musical feats performed during the show are bewitching in themselves, adding a pleasing accompaniment to the dialogue, songs and dances of the characters.
While all the actors were great to watch, there are some that definitely drew attention to themselves, and made it fun whenever they came on stage. Little Red Riding Hood was sassy, dangerous and adorable, while Cinderella’s Prince played the sickeningly charming member of royalty to a T . Charlie Norburn, playing Milky White the cow proved there really are no small roles. With a witty script, great tunes and talented cast, ‘Into the Woods’ is not only a play about fairy tales, but a fairy tale of a play. Go catch it now at the Riley Smith Hall.