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REVIEW: Into the Woods ★★★★ at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

Into the Woods ★★★★
Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House
Until Saturday 10th March 2018

The trouble with taking on a Victorian Grade 1 theatre is they are expensive buildings to maintain. The charitable trust is not the beneficiary of the awards that other theatres in the region receive and hence it has to do fundraising.  Sure, you can have your name on a chair, but surely a more appropriate method of fundraising is to produce a popular musical? Following on from a number of recent successes comes Sondheim' s award winning musical tale of fairy tale mischief. As always, a large group of musicians accompany a talented ensemble and fill the opera house with a splendid sound. What’s not to like?

James Lapine writes a book that makes clever use of some well-known characters.  The Grimm Brothers’ tales that make up the story are familiar to everyone. Cinderella (Bridget Marsh) is hoping to go to the ball but her Stepmother (Katie Howe) and 2 step-sisters (Rachael Bell and Harriet Stout) have other ideas. Jack (Frankie Aird) is a big fan of the family cow and makes a bit of a meal of selling it much to the annoyance of his mother (Jessica Atkinson). Rapunzel (Charlie Younger) is stuck up a tower however, in line with the original tale, relatives (Oliver Wood and Sarah Wales) are bakers who are struggling to start a family and have neighbour issues with the local Witch (Lucy Sutton). Add in other characters, such as the bread buying Red Riding Hood (Catherine Kerr) and of course her wolf (Bobby Trotter). This show puts each of these elements into the same community on the edge of a wood. The fairy tale soap opera soon finds the paths overlapping.

The show also has a Narrator, Dan Johnson, who has presence as he opens up with the classic line “Once Upon A Time”. One of the striking elements about this production is that, in addition to the strong singing talent, the costumes are something different. There are some elements of steampunk in much of the apparel, in particular for the Narrator and the Mysterious Man (Alan Davison).

The singing was delightful. Each individual had a contribution to make to either an ensemble or solo number and well as to the overall soundscape that help provide the atmosphere. Jenni Watson led a tight ship in the orchestra pit and the musicians didn’t put a foot wrong.

Now this is a long production, coming in at 3 hours including the interval and the first act almost feels like a complete story in its own right. Considering that this was the first night of a short run, the cast were very tight putting some professional productions to shame. Yes there were first night hiccups, though these were mainly with the lighting for our point of view. Volume-wise, this is probably the loudest of the Tyne Theatre Production shows so far. You really know when the giant is about! Director Phil Dixon has brought about a fresh approach and made the tale straightforward to follow. The show is well worth checking out.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Tickets for Into the Woods are priced £16 full price, £14 concessions and £10 limited view. Groups 10+ get 1 free. Tickets available now from our affiliate Eventim UK:  

The Tyne Theatre & Opera House Box Office is open 10am-3:30pm Monday to Friday and event days.  Booking and Information Line: 0844 2491 000 (10am – 6pm Monday to Friday)

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