Theatre – Into the Woods – Northern Light Theatre Company – Until October 27th

Into the Woods, by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, cleverly brings together characters from several Brothers Grimm fairy-tales and re-tells their stories with a unique and humorous spin. Familiar faces Cindarella (Kish Jedrzejczak), Little Red Riding Hood (Leah Potter) and Jack (of beanstalk fame – Gareth Wilkes) go about their journeys, each wishing for something more than what they have. For a variety of reasons, these characters all find themselves venturing into the quintessential location for fairy-tale mayhem, the woods. Meanwhile, the Baker (Andrew Hawkins) and his wife (Jeri Williams) yearn for a child and must go on a quest to retrieve four items, in order to break a magic spell cast by their neighbour, the Wicked Witch (Megan Humphries), and secure themselves a family.

A superb ensemble of actors has been gathered by director Karen Sheldon, and under her guidance they meet the demands of the vocals admirably, and also shine in their comedic abilities. Humphries gives her usual consummate performance, creating a character that is a brilliant mix of evil, wisdom and hilarity, while, as Little Red, Potter is not quite the innocent flower, dishing out equal measures of both sweetness and manipulation. The charm (and smarm) of the handsome (and prancing) princes (Lindsay Prodea and Max Garcia-Underwood) make them crowd favourites and Sarah Nagy gets many laughs as the delightfully unhinged Rapunzel.

Accompanied excellently by an orchestra matched at just the right volume to compliment rather than overpower the singers, and under the steady guidance of Musical Director Peter Johns, the complicated score of Sondheim is navigated with aplomb. The production values are also up to the usual NLTC standard. The set, courtesy of Damon Hill, is aesthetically interesting and provides a multilayered field on which the action of the show, including the well drilled dances moves (choreography Kerry Hauber), can take place. Costumes from Ann Humphries are plentiful and sumptuous, and Renee Brice is to be commended for her impressive makeup, particularly the body decoration of the Wolf (Buddy Dawson). The only major detraction is the delay of some microphones, with the resulting uneven amplification creating a disappointing distraction.

While the basis of the show is in children’s stories, these are the fairy-tales of old – although there is the happily ever after, the flip side of the bad guys getting their comeuppance (often in the form of some good old-fashioned eye gouging) is not shied away from either and some more serious concepts are also explored. This is a long show, pushing three hours, but in the hands of this professional cast and crew, the pace remains constant, the performances are engaging and the time flies.

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