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Review of LUU Musical Theatre Society's 'Into The Woods'

In May 2023, Into the Woods, co-directed by Evey Jermy, Erin Gazeley, Lucy Yellow, and co-produced by Ben Nutall, Jennie Bodger, Kate Matthews, Saffy Wehren, and Liv Blythe had its premier. It may come as a surprise to some, but (as a foreigner), I had never heard of Into the Woods – or at least I thought I didn’t (let’s leave this Rob Marshall version aside for now). Moreover, despite having been involved in theatre societies here in Leeds, I realised I had also never seen any productions by the Musical Theatre Society. Not knowing what lay in store for me, I went to see the three-hour show. Have I mentioned that as much as I love theatre, I always fall asleep? This time I did not.

 

I arrived way too early, so the anticipation and excitement of seeing the set was building as I waited outside. When I finally entered Pyramid Theatre, I could instantly see that the atmosphere was set by impressive hand-made scenography. I was amazed by a full-detailed tree, and a puppet cow brought to life excellently by set designer Amelia Perry. There was the clever addition of leaves coming down from the ceiling and the whole stage was covered in low-hanging smoke. Although the set was impressive, I did not feel that Pyramid itself was the best choice of theatre for the production, the orchestra sitting practically on the stage was of no benefit.

 

That being said, the whole cast and ensemble impressed me with their singing and musical abilities. Musical directors Jenna Bowman and Jennie Bodger, vocal coach Lydia Whitbread and rehearsal pianist Niall Townley were all exceptional. The foundation for a musical is in the name and I felt that the whole cast and crew responsible for this key aspect of the show fulfilled their roles. I cannot omit a mention of the costumes, under the charge of Eva Lafontan, that without a doubt matched the story’s atmosphere brilliantly.

 

So, as the lights went down, on a sold-out opening night, we were introduced to this well thought out and exuberant show through the Prologue scene. From the very beginning, there were a fair number of strong and entertaining characters. Cinderella’s sisters, Florinda, and Lucinda, (played by Cam Griffiths and Bethan Green) particularly stood out to me. After becoming acquainted with all the characters, the production moved on to the group scenes. These scenes, for me, seemed quite messy. The duos, (or even trios), had a far greater impact. The charming duo of the Baker and his Wife, (Harry Toye and Talia Goss), the hilarious two princes, (Henry Marshall and Alex Howe) and Wolf with Little Red (Henry Marshall and Hannah Whiteway) stole my heart. Even the smaller roles, such as Jack’s mother (Emma Wilcox), Cinderella’s stepmother (Victoria Norman), Granny (Ellery Turgoose) and my favourite steward (Harry Daisley) sunk into my memory. However, the brightest – or should I say darkest? – star was Andie Curno in their role of the evil witch. Curno had some fabulous co-stars, such as Ellen Corbet, playing Cinderella with her angelic voice, Toby Bowen who played a heart-warming Jack, a hypnotising Lucy Davey as Rapunzel, and Matteo Ferrari’s character, Mysterious Man.

 

All in all, I feel that the visible hard work put into this production of Into the Woods paid off. However, what I struggled with the most was that the whole cast played to the front of the audience. I was sitting on the stage left, so felt that I was not able to have the full experience of the performance due to the fact that the actors had been directed to perform only to the front. It may have been better for all aspects and angles of the stage to have been used. Apart from this, the whole show was entertaining, I believe even for those who were not fond of the original script. The whole crew overcame a few minor technical errors well. Let us not forget the brilliant orchestra who accompanied the actors step by step.

 

Although I had some reservations regarding the show's length and tempo, overall, I really enjoyed Musical Theatre Society’s production of Into the Woods which brought the audience along on a journey through the fairy-tale forest.


Words by Misia Kozanecka she/her

 

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