By Jake Goodall
Beenleigh Theatre Group takes us back Into The Woods with the baker, the princess, the boy and the girl by revitalizing Sondheim’s classic 35 years on!
Directed by Mardi Schon, Beenleigh Theatre Group’s Into The Woods is pure mystique from the first down beat from the orchestra. This company’s rendition of Sondheim’s classic is something truly special magical, dropped in the town centre of Beenleigh. Into The Woods remains a true testament to musical theatre greats and BTG’s production is no different!
The show is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales in musical format that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel. All tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with a witch who has put a curse on them.
With Direction by Mardi Schon and Musical Direction by Julie Whiting, it is no doubt that this production is a pure musical master piece from top to bottom. After the unfortunate evens of last year with the passing of Steven Sondheim, they sure had a huge weight to carry however they pulled it off!
The production’s leads, William Boyd (The Baker), Genevieve Tree (The Baker’s Wife), Danika Saal (The Witch), Emma Burridge (Little Red Riding Hood), Aiden Cobb (Jack) and Chloe Smith (Cinderella) pack this show with the punches it needs to really elevate it to the next level.
Special mention to both Burridge and Smith who took on some of the highest notes in the show with absolute ease! Saal, who took on the Witch, progressed into her role slowly throughout Act I but enthralled the audience at every movement by the Last Midnight. As the season progresses, Saal will likely become more comfortable in her role and command the stage from their very first entrance.
Set Concepts by Mardi Schon and Ian Johnson create the woods impeccably with a full cargo net on stage with houses and backdrops flying in and out. All the visual elements of this show provide the audience with pure delight at every tree and turn. A magic moment is the collapsible flats used to demonstrate the different areas of the woods throughout the show, this was an ingenious design by Schon and Johnson and something not usually seen.
Costumes by Marg Oliver, Darcy Morris, Justin Turb-Hearne and Talulah Van Keimpema add to the amazing visual enchantments of the show, they transport the audience right into the character’s minds and help portray them with absolute delight.
The dual princes played by Christopher Morphett-Wheatley (Prince Charming/The Wolf) and Darcy Rhodes (Rapunzel’s Prince) gave the great comedic relief this show needed. Rhodes commanded the stage at every turn and entrance, with his insane movement and brilliant facials he carried this show on his shoulders!
Filling out this humongous cast is Abby Page (Rapunzel), Jane Rapley (Cinderella’s Stepmother), Sophia Dimopoulos (Florinda), Jamiee Lee Kemp (Lucinda), Dom Bradley (Narrator), Simon Stone (Mysterious Man), Zoe Costello (Jack’s Mother), Michael Mills (Steward), Natasha Bass (Granny/Cinderella’s Mother), Stephen Morris (Cinderella’s Father), Chynna Santod (Snow White/Giantess), Talula Van Kiempama (Sleeping Beauty) and Darcy Morris (Milky White). All these actors fantastically supported the production even with its intricate polyphonic score. Special mention to Morris who maneuvered the Milky White puppet throughout the entire production with absolute professionalism and ease.
It must be highlighted that BTG employed the talents of multiple South East Queensland musicians to bring Sondheim’s score to life! Conducted by musical director Julie Whiting, there was not a beat missed through the performance, from intricate musical sound effects to the ginormous full sound during the lengthy opening number. Many local community theatre companies no longer hire musicians due to budget constraints after COVID, so it is fantastic to see an 18 strong orchestra for this production!
The only criticism for this production is a few hitches with the sound throughout the opening night. It distracted and overshadowed the vocals from the actors, however, over time I am sure this will become less of an issue for the team!
Overall, this was a very effective production and BTG did Sondheim’s classic justice! Though some challenges have surfaced for the team, the cast and crew made a wonderful night out and it is worth heading Into The Woods!
Into The Woods performs until the 26th of February at Beenleigh Theatre Group. For more information and tickets visit BTG’s website!