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Monday, April 18, 2016


(Pic by Val Adamson)
Sondheim’s musical in good hands with this KickstArt production. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Little Red Riding Hood meets Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk connects with Rapunzel and the Brothers Grimm fairy tales add their stories. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty also get a look-in, in the fascinating mix that makes up Steven Sondheim’s Into the Woods presented by multi-award winning KickstArt which opened last night at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

This is a production that director Steven Stead has dreamed of doing since he first heard the original Broadway cast recording when he was 18. As he says in his programme notes: “I was entranced by the dextrous weaving of complex language, melody and ideas, and the exuberant theatricality of the piece.”

He has summed up Into the Woods perfectly. This is not your average musical with hum-along tunes and brightly coloured sets. It’s a brilliant blending of characters and stories to make a highly thought-provoking whole. This is what Sondheim intended – a look at the relationship between parents and children and what influences each new generation, as well as the importance of communities working together for the betterment of all.

All the characters end up in the woods and Greg King’s highly effective design sets the spooky mood with its revolve of gnarled branches and stumps as well as books with roots growing out of them. The opening of the show features the clever use of a bookcase of fairy stories which splits into three, and turns to display different settings – Cinderella, The Baker’s Son and Jack and the Beanstalk

Musical direction by American musical theatre expert, Drew Rienstra, is masterful. This is not easy music to sing as Sondheim uses much dissonance as well as a multitude of words. Memorable numbers were First Midnight into the Woods, Witch’s Rap and Witch’s Lament, Last Midnight and Moments in the Woods. Highlight for the audience last night – and deservedly so –was the hilarious Agony sung by the two princes.

Stead has chosen a stellar cast and under his astute direction each performer rises to the challenges of the production. The pace is frenetic at times with characters running in and out of the woods, up and down - and through - the revolve so intense focus is needed. It could all very easily become chaotic but Stead has it firmly under control!

While all deserve mention, standout performances come from Bryan Hiles and Lyle Buxton. Hyles’ character as the Baker’s Son requires him to move from initial cheerfulness to frustrated  helpless anger, giving us a chance to see this actor’s full range for the first time. Buxton is a delight as Cinderella’s lustful Prince and The Wolf.

Jessica Sole impressed as the Baker’s Son’s Wife and so did Lisa Bobbert who was totally unrecognisable in her powerhouse performance as The Witch. Frances Williams was a charming Cinderella, Katy Moore a feisty Little Red Riding Hood and Nathan Kruger a suitably lovelorn Rapunzel’s Prince. Peter Court doubled as The Narrator and The Mysterious Man.

Tina le Roux’s lighting captures the moodiness of the production while Neil Stuart Harris’s costumes clearly identify the characters’ styles.

Sondheim’s Into the Woods is in good hands with this KickstArt production. My husband, who is a Sondheim aficionado, says it all. When I asked him what he thought of the production, he replied: “It’s not just good. It’s very, very good.” From someone who hardly ever uses superlatives, that’s a 100%-plus endorsement!

Into the Woods runs until May 1, with performances from Tuesday to Saturday at 19h30 and on Sundays at 18h00. There are matinee performances on Saturdays at 14h30.

Tickets R120 booked through Computicket: For block bookings contact Ailsa Windsor of Going Places: or 083 250 2690. – Caroline Smart

Please note that despite its fairytale characters, this musical is aimed at adult audiences, and is not suitable for young children. PG eight years old.