Into the Woods
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Barn Theatre, Oxted, Surrey
Monday 26th April to Saturday 1st May 2004
Minack Theatre on the cliffs at Porthcurno.
Monday 31st May to Friday 4th June 2004
“Once upon a time in a far-off kingdom lived a young maiden, a sad young lad and a childless baker with his wife . . .” So begins the hit musical ‘Into the Woods’ by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine that whisks the audience away to a fairy-tale land of witches, wolves and giants.
‘Into the Woods’ brings to musical life Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Ridinghood and many other well-known Grimm’s fairy-tale characters. Interwoven with these classic tales is the story of a Baker and his wife, whose longing for a child is thwarted by a mischievous Witch living next door. Wishes are fulfilled, old curses reversed and many lessons learned as these colourful characters journey through the woods in the hope of living ‘happy ever after’.
James Lapine’s clever and witty book and Stephen Sondheim’s unforgettable music and lyrics combine to create a unique piece of theatre that has thrilled audiences on both sides of the Atlantic since its premiere in 1987, winning 3 Tony Awards including Best Book and Best Score.
Into the Woods was produced by Richard Allen. Paul Longhurst joined us for the first time as Director, and our Musical Director was Jonathan Butcher.
As with our previous Minack tour, the technical team was headed up by Bruce Reed (Technical Director), our Stage Manager was Malcolm Le Croissette, with Production & Set Design by Jill ‘Wigs’ Wilson.
This was the first time that ‘Into the Woods’ had been presented at the Minack Theatre.
Producer: Richard Allen
Director: Paul Longhurst
Musical Director: Jonathan Butcher
Assistant Director: Fiona Steel
Technical Director: Bruce Reed
Stage Manager: Malcolm Le Croissette
Assistant Stage Manager: Phil Littleford
Production & Set Designer: Jill 'Wigs' Wilson
Wardrobe Mistress: Andrea Allen
Lighting Designer: Carolyn Rowley
Sound Technician: James McLeod
Props Supervisors: John & Sheila Bennett
Mechanical Set Consultant: Phil Johnson
Make Up: Neila Dawes & Morven Rae
Hairdresser: Sharon Dawes
Prompt: Stella Thomas
Baker: Paul Longhurst
Baker's Wife: Katy Davies
Witch: Kelly Beard
Narrator: David Phipps-Davis
Cinderella: Camilla Rockley
Jack: James Smoker
Jack's Mother: Morven Rae
Little Red Ridinghood: Elizabeth Skinner
Cinderella's Prince / Wolf: Bob Wilson
Rapunzel's Prince: Richard Allen
Rapunzel: Kate Bassett
Cinderella's Stepmother: Teresa Skinner
Florinda: Jo Shepherd
Lucinda: Fiona Rae
Cinderella's Mother / Granny / Giant: Fiona Steel
Mysterious Man: Chris Chaplin
Steward: Mark Wakeford
Cinderella's Father: Bruce Reed
Snow White: Nicky Rolph-Sutton
Milky White / Sleeping Beauty: Freya Finch
Conductor: Jonathan Butcher
Conductor (31st May): Andrew Truwella
Violin 1: Catherine Axcell
Violin 2: Ellis Ash
Viola 1: Julie Walker
Viola 2: Paul Newbold
Cello: Ethan Merrick
Double Bass: Jan Kiernan
Flute / Piccolo: Judith Jerome
Clarinet: Paul Summers
Bassoon: Helen Taylor
Trumpet: Stephen Willcox
Horn 1: Steve Nicholls
Horn 2 (Barn): Martin Grainger
Horn 2 (Minack): Tim Banks
Keyboards 1: Ronald Crocker
Keyboards 2 (Barn): Natasha Page
Keyboards 2 (Minack): Mark Dickman
Percussion: Richard Souper
Derrick Graham - Surrey Mirror - May 2004
It was difficult to decide whether Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods was intended to be a modern opera about the mythical characters found in pantomime or a rather strange pantomime being performed in May at the Oxted Barn Theatre and in June at the Minack in Cornwall.
Sondheim had taken the roles of Cinderella, Jack the Giant Killer, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Rumplestiltskin and linked all the stories together and set it to music.
Jonathan Butcher's orchestra was superb though 15 musicians going full blast at close range could be rather overpowering.
The set was a masterpiece of design and construction by Jill Wilson and Bruce Reed, each tree in the forest opening out to become an interior of a cottage, palace, or baker's shop. A vast tree in front of the proscenium arch had openings at high level and rotating sections to change it into a tower from which Rapunzel let down her hair. The tree had grown from a seedling that Cinderella had planted on her mother's grave that had been nourished by her tears.
To unite all these characters and story lines needed a very complex plot and a Narrator, David Phipps-Davis, to explain it to the audience in-between the 25 songs or arias. Incredibly, the Director, Paul Longhurst, also took the leading male role of the Baker, but he acknowledged that it would not have been possible without the terrific support of his assistant, Fiona Steel.
With the 24 character roles some doubling up took place, but this was quite cleverly done, as in the instance of Bob Wilson, who made a lecherous Wolf with his head mostly covered by a mask, but also the handsome Prince for Cinderella. Only his superb voice was recognisable in the two characters.
Kelly Beard's Witch was a different transformation as she starts the play as a hideous old woman, then when the Baker manages to collect a white cow, golden slippers and hairs from a blonde, she throws off the curse that made her that way and becomes a glamorous woman. Removing the curse also gives the Baker back his virility and enables his wife to become pregnant.
Complicated? The rest of the plot gets worse and the music leaps out with some very weird harmony.
All the cast were excellent, Mrs Giant (causing mass slaughter as she looks for Jack who killed her husband) being a loud voice by Fiona Steel and heavy footsteps, with all the cast staring upwards trying to judge who was going to get squashed next. Definitely not a panto for children!
An entertaining three hours of an unusual and rarely performed musical, which you can see next at the Minack Theatre, Cornwall from the 31st to the 4th June.
Frank Ruhrmund - The Cornishman - June 2004 - 'Magic and Spectacular'
Once upon a time, in the early 19th century, the brothers Grimm compiled an anthology of German fairy tales, and it came to pass that long afterwards, in the late 20th century, the American composer and lyracist Stephen Sondheim borrowed several of their stories, among them that of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk, and with his own imaginative additions and the help of James Lapine's book, wrote the musical Into the Woods, which the East-Surrey based Barnstormers now bring to the Minack for the first time and in a way which can only be described spectacular.
A musical which has been described as being "a fiary tale for the age of destruction through which we are living", in keeping with the best of fairy tales it has both its light and often very funny side and its darker and Grimm eye-pecking side, and is told in two halves so distinct you could leave at the interval - following the fireworks - happy in the knowledge that you have already had more than your money's worth. With hindsight I rather wish I had and so been spared the mish-mash of moralising and philosophising, the need to find the best of oneself and "no one is alone" bit, of the second act.
As bewitching as the production is, its "tower" and its technical wizardry in general are something else, at the same time it also bothers and bewilders, with its two-sided aspect making it difficult to decide which to plump for, the players or the splendid set on which they strut their stuff. This coupled with Stephen Sondheim's sparkling lyrics that come at you with speed, suggests that one sitting provides but a taste, and that a second, even third, sitting is needed to get the meat out of the piece. One of the few delicious quips I managed to note, for instance, was the Wolf's confession to Red Riding Hood: "There's no possible way to describe what you feel, when you're talking to your meal!"
A bitter-sweet, Grimm-Sondheim, fairy tale for adults with a super score - 'Agony' to 'No More' - in which every Barnstormer, the seen and unseen alike, performs magnificently, it is pure magic.