Originally published on A Younger Theatre
Awarded 2 stars
There are three separate companies performing Into the Woods at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. A Sondheim classic, it is in no way an easy ride, but then which of Sondheim’s creations is? The lyrics are tongue twisters and the music is highly chromatic and fragmented. But The Talentz Musical Theatre Company has taken on the challenge of staging this musical classic by one of the greatest songwriters/ lyricists in the theatre.
Set in a fantasy world of many of history’s most well-known fairy tales, Into The Woods tells of a baker and his wife, desperate to have a child but cursed to bear none. The only way to lift the witch’s curse is to travel into the nearby wood and bring back “the cow of milky white, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, the slipper as pure as gold.” Thankfully in the same village and also travelling through the woods are Jack off to market to sell his cow, Little Red Riding Hood visiting her grandma, Rapunzel stuck in her tower and Cinderella running back from the ball. The baker and his wife must obtain the necessary bounty before the third stroke of midnight or the curse will remain forever.
This is not an easy musical for an amateur theatre company and unfortunately it shows. The songs in particular are not the most tuneful so it takes real skill and confidence to achieve the necessary tone, pitch and harmony. All of the cast give mixed vocal performances here – sometimes the songs are good and sometimes they just don’t work. The witch gives a stand out performance in “Stay With Me”, the vocals showing off her softer, gentler side. Likewise “It Takes Two” between the baker and his wife is tuneful and filled with hope. The title song both at the start and the end are good too – the cast seem to feel safer in numbers and so are more tempted to stick to their vocal line. But other performances are weaker – the duet between the two prince brothers sticks out like a sore thumb, “Agony” at not finding their damsels translates into similar on stage. However the acting between these two makes up for the voices; both are a bit pompous, arrogant and headstrong, which comes across nicely.
The cast also give mixed acting performances, though these are stronger than the vocals overall. Jack and his mother butt heads convincingly over the selling of the cow and Little Red Riding Hood comes across as the spoilt little girl she is meant to be. Cinderella likewise is filled with hope at finding her prince and then doubt at deceiving him by concealing her true nature. But for each good performance there is a wooden one – the wolf, Cinderella’s stepmother and the ugly stepsisters for example.
Overall the production has major flaws that indicate perhaps this musical is too advanced for this theatre group. The effort and ambition is to be applauded, but the results don’t stack up to expectation.
Into the Woods plays at Greenside at Nicholson Square (venue 209) until August 29 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Fringe website.