A cocktail of dark comedy and fantasy for Palace Theatre as Into The Woods brings fairy tale twist to Redditch.
The cast of Into The Woods were overwhelmed with emotion as they returned to stage for the first time in two years for Wednesday night’s opening show at Redditch’s Palace Theatre.
Dynamik Theatre’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical treated the audience to a magical blend of classic fairy tales, all of which take a dark but comical turn, as they seamlessly intertwine with one another.
The show cleverly follows the story of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk, exploring the – sometimes fatal – consequences of each character’s wishes and quests.
Speaking about the opening performance, which took place on Wednesday, Artistic Director and Founder of Dynamik Theatre Jamie Poxon said: “The show was very, very good and the audience loved it. I’m so proud of everyone who’s helped make the production such a success.
“It’s been a tough few years for us all, so to deliver an opening show as they did is just amazing.”
With the production showcasing aspiring performers as young as nine working alongside accomplished actors who have been in the industry for more than 30 years, the cast is bursting with diversity, undeniable experience, and ground-breaking talent.
Steph Westwood who plays the witch, sensationally bought her character to life thanks to her remarkable voice and ability to successfully translate many of the emotions that come with motherhood, through her outstanding performance.
The voice of Cinderella was second-to-none thanks to actor Annabel Pilcher, whose delicate demeanour contrasted well with that of mischievous Little Red, played by Louisa Gould, whose fearless teenage traits shone throughout.
The glue of the show was rising star Mitchell Brown, who triumphantly managed to tie each snippet of the various tales together as narrator thanks to his confident stage presence.
“I knew this show would be a challenge, it’s a big show, mammoth in fact and took everyone out of their comfort zone - but I always like a challenge,” explained Jamie, adding: “But I wanted to give the Palace Theatre something new.
“And making a success of the show was even more important after the great Stephen Sondheim sadly died last year. Sondheim was iconic in the arts industry and our performance hopefully paid tribute to him from everyone at Dynamik Theatre, in our own special way.”
With the production delayed a year due to the pandemic, this was the first time for many of those involved to be back performing in front of a live audience in two years.
“I can’t describe just how good it felt having people actually watching the show again. It was a bit surreal actually,” added Jamie.
“It’s not just the cast either, it’s the musicians, the set and costume designers, and those who work backstage – we all do this because we want to make theatre and that really is all we’ve wanted to do over the past two years.
“It’s been horrible not being able to perform, in fact, it's been absolutely heartbreaking, but we’re back and we can all start doing what we love again.”
Rehearsals for the show started back in August, with Jamie saying the first time the team met up was “very emotional”.
“There were lots of tears, it was the first time all of the cast and crew members have been together in 18 months. It was very moving."
Further performances of Into The Woods will be taking place at the Palace Theatre tonight (Thursday 10th February) and Friday at 7.30pm, with two performances on Saturday, at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Buy your tickets for the show here.
'Virtually all of the musicals written by the late, great Stephen Sondheim are complex and have their challenges to bring to the stage, it is therefore to the distinct credit of the cast and production team when any performance feels uncomplicated and entertains to the utmost. Into the Woods is probably one of the greatest complexity, a sublime mix of classic fairy tale stories from Cinderella to Jack and the Beanstalk via Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood and this production from Dynamik Theatre is engaging and enthralling in equal measure. A marvellous atmospheric set, taking advantage of the relatively small dimensions of the stage at the Palace Theatre, Redditch, created by Katie Bonehill, Jake Taylor and Matt Evans coupled with some exemplary direction on stage from Jamie Poxon and in the orchestra pit from Graham Irving deliver something special to the audience.
There are some incredible voices across the cast in what could easily be described as a 'singathon' of a score, there are two however of supreme quality from Annabel Pilcher as Cinderella and Steph Westwood as the Witch both could easily grace a West End Stage.
Paul Stait as the Baker and Deborah Williams as his Wife create some stellar acting interactions as at the core of the story they seek out the items requested by the Witch to enable them to have a child and the story is propelled along at a good pace with the assistance of Mitchell Brown as the Narrator (at least until his external observations are felt no longer required and he is sacrificed to the Giant).
Probably the highlight musical number of the show isn't necessarily the obvious one, 'Agony' performed and reprised with gusto by Ed Blann as Cinderella's Prince and Ben Cuffin-Munday as Rapunzel's Prince has a strange way of lifting the spirits, despite its narrative, it is however run a very close second by Steph Westwood's rendition of 'Last Midnight' as the Witch (by now beautiful but, without any magical powers) makes her final exit.
There is more than a fair share of young talent on display, not least of all Louisa Gould's feisty Little Red and Billy Stait's naive and easily impressed (by a Hen that lays golden eggs and a self-playing harp, stolen from a Giant, so who wouldn't be) Jack. Some great puppetry skills are also displayed (a skill not often brought to the stage and much underrated) by Evan Moss and Jake Miles as Milky White the cow.
Some other performances to watch out for are a second role for Ed Blann, proving his acting talents as a distinctly un-princely Wolf and Gavin Whichello's Mysterious Man, when first he appears you may not understand the reason for the character but, watch on and you will.
Into the Woods is sadly a rarely performed piece and one you shouldn't miss, so since you only have three chances left to immerse yourself in a production that I am sure Sondheim himself would be incredibly proud of, book your tickets while you can, you won't be disappointed.'