BY MEEGAN WORCESTER
“The difference between a cow and a bean is a bean can begin an adventure.”
LUU Music Theatre Society has started this semester with a quality performance of the family favourite, ‘Into the Woods’. All of our beloved fairy-tale storybook characters have been reimagined in this production, starring talented student actors and a phenomenal set team. The story follows a baker (Joe Bell) and his wife (Harriet Kemp-Hunt) who wish to have a child. Cinderella (Olivia Thackray) wishes to attend the King's Festival and Jack (James Marsh) wishes his cow would give milk. When the baker and his wife learn that they cannot have a child because of a witch's (Helena Busiakiewicz) curse, the couple set off on a journey to break it. Everyone's wish is granted, but the consequences of their actions come back to haunt them later with disastrous results. Originally written by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, this University of Leeds’ rendition was directed by Daniel Cartlidge and Shaunagh Kelly, produced by Megan Bradbury and Mary Jackson, with support from musical directors Jack Fogarty and Jeorgie Brett and vocal coach Eilish Convery.
As soon as the audience members entered the theatre, they were whisked into their own fictitious chronicle, as chirping birds beamed down onto the seats from the rigging. A live orchestra was sat in front of the stage and a singular piano was placed on stage left, with a beautifully designed set of trees crowding the stage behind. When the show began, it was clear how much time was spent making the costumes fit the characters and enhance their individual identities whilst keeping to the classic descriptions we have all read about when we were children. This included the vibrant colours of Little Red’s (Iona Meechan) hood and the wolf’s (Tyler Chambers) fluffy ears. All of these details amplified the professionalism of the production and the careful thought that was put into each piece of clothing for the characters.
The puppet of Jack’s cow, Milky White, was a fascinating structure. It was made of some sort of wire with a mechanical mouth to be fed a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold. Again, much thought and effort was put into the overall production of the play, which added to the brilliant acting and vocals presented onstage.
It really felt as though the storybooks I read in primary school were being brought to life, as the songs were sung and played by the orchestra throughout the entire play in a strikingly stunning performance. Not to mention the beautiful princess-like melodies of Rapunzel (Kiera Leaper), bringing back memories of Disney princess classics. There were many comedic moments and the chemistry between Rapunzel’s prince (Ronan Pilkington) and Cinderella’s prince (Shay Kennedy) heightened their posh-prince behaviour and misogynistic characters. All of these moments, as well as the memorable song ‘Agony’, stood out as highlights.
Even the way the pianist and narrator (Mary Jackson) interacted with characters onstage gave a new depth to the narrative, breaking the 4th wall in a way that I have never seen before. The audience clearly enjoyed the night of storybook tragedy and it was definitely a play to distract us from adult responsibilities and crushing university deadlines.