26 February 2006

<i>Into the Woods</i>

I saw  Into the Woods for the first time at the Oxford Playhouse last night. In general the show was quite good, but I have to admit I'm a little disappointed by the script. In general I'm a pretty big fan of Sondheim (especially Assassins) but this time I thought the story wandered into the weeds.

Part of that sense might have been that this particular production got a little sloppy in the second act. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it felt less polished than the first half, especially for the witch, who was terrific early on, but seemed to just screech in the second part. Maybe it was because she had a tough time pulling off her "return to beauty", since the actress was better suited for playing the hideous old witch than the pretty young witch. Or maybe it was because she kept going flat (even I could tell).

A few members of the cast really shone; the princes were excellent (I think Agony is the best song in the show) and the baker's wife was awesome. In fact, she almost managed to pull the whole thing together when she sings to her husband at the very end (helped by a spine-tingling bit of lighting magic — isn't the theatre wonderful?).

The rest of the cast was largely hit-and-miss. Milky white was pretty awesome (a two-man tap dancing affair) but the wolf was pretty mediocre. Cinderella didn't have much substance and Red Riding Hood was only so-so. Finally, the big cast numbers had a little too much running around, making everybody sound kind of out-of-breath.

All in all a fun night at the theatre, but not quite as impressive as I expected.

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