Press ESC or click the X to close this window

Into the Woods (Susan Elkin reviews)

Into the Woods

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Book by James Lapine

Royal Academy Musical Theatre Company

Directed by Bruce Guthrie

 Star rating 4

I admire Stephen Sondheim’s work without necessarily enjoying it personally. Into the Woods, however, is an exception. It’s a show I like very much, and more so each time I see it.  The concept is brilliant – familiar fairy tale characters interacting in the woods, where all sorts of strange events and collisions  can, and do, happen. In that sense it owes something to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The lyrics are very witty. It’s also tuneful which is always a bonus and it’s a terrific company piece because there are lots of meaty character roles for a big cast.

In the hands of the Royal Academy Musical Theatre Company, in RAM’s splendid Susie Sainsbury Theatre  Into the Woods zips along impressively.

Of course there are no weak links in this accomplished cast but there are several performers who stand out. Anna Eckhard commands the stage as the Witch – her singing voice beautifully controlled and her appearance menacing. Zach Burns delights as The Baker, insouciant, cheerful or bereaved. And what a singer he is – he can do lyrical and patter apparently effortlessly. And like every other cast member his diction is impeccable so each word is clearly audible. And I enjoyed Kristian Thorkildsen’s absurdly camp, hammy Prince. Sebastian Diaquoi does well as the deceptively casual narrator/wolf too.

There are seventeen people in the cast with some role swapping across the four performances which, presumably, helps to widen the experience of these young actors in training.

You can always rely, obviously, on RAM to assemble a good orchestra. The fifteen players in the pit, under MD, Isaac Adni, play magnificently. It’s a far from easy score yet the music here is rich and very well balanced both within the band and with the action on stage. The Susie Sainsbury acoustics allow you to hear and enjoy every instrumental solo and from the dress circle you can see into the pit too.

And Loren Elstein who designed this show has come up trumps with, for example, an exotically multi coloured robe resembling a huge rag rug for the witch. Her main set device is neat too: a wheeled high platform to which is attached two staircases and lots of leafy bits. Moved and rotated, it can become almost anything.

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
More posts by Susan Elkin