INTO THE WOODS
27/04/2023 - 06/05/2023
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Director, Nick Lerew
Music Directors, Hayden Taylor & Maya Handa Naff
WITCH Music Theatre
Journey into the woods for a contemporary and wildly imaginative new telling of this timeless musical tale, filled with wicked hilarity and giant heart.
Into the Woods features the remarkable Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning score; a veritable treasure trove of metaphor, wordplay, and breathtaking insights into the ecstasy and anguish of holding onto hope in times of darkness and uncertainty. Packed with whimsical characters and enchanting theatrical magic, James Lapine’s Brothers Grimm-inspired story is a hilariously charming romp that blossoms into a captivating fable of personal growth and community, reminding us that “no one is alone.”
To fulfil their deepest wish, a Baker and his Wife must first reverse a curse placed on them by a mysterious Witch living next door. The pair journey into the woods to locate four magical ingredients, and along the way meet Cinderella, Little Red, Jack, and Rapunzel, each pursuing a wish of their own. Through surprising twists and astounding encounters, these fairy-tale characters discover the true power of wishes, and what really happens after ‘happily ever after’.
Experience a spellbinding new fairytale world where all who step foot into the woods will come face-to-face with their wildest desires and deepest fears.
Te Auaha, Tapere Nui. 65 Dixon Street, Wellington
Wed 26 April 7:30pm(Preview)
Thur 27 April – Sat 6 May 2023
+ Sun 30 April & Sat 6 May 2:00pm
Book tickets at https://www.witchmusictheatre.co.nz/intothewoods
The Witch, Greer Perenara
The Baker, William Duignan
The Baker’s Wife, Áine Gallagher
Little Red Riding Hood, Aria Leader-Fiamatai
Jack, Tara Canton
Cinderella, Gayle Hammersley
Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf, Jackson Burling
Rapunzel’s Prince (u.s.. Narrator/Mysterious Man), Glenn Horsfall
Rapunzel (u.s.Cinderella), Emily Yeap
Narrator/Mysterious Man, Kevin Orlando
Jack’s Mother/Granny, Paula Gardyne
Cinderella’s Stepmother/Mother, Joanne Lisik
Lucinda (u.s. The Baker's Wife), Aimée Sullivan
Florinda (u.s. The WItch), Mia Alonso-Green
Steward (u.s. Cinderella's Prince/Wolf), Ed Blunden
Milky White/Giant, Felicity Cozens
Swing (Little Red Riding Hood, Lucinda, Florida), Tessa Deacle
Swing (Jack, Rapunzel’s Prince), Ollie Smyth
Choreographer, Greta Casey-Solly
Technical Producer & Designer, Joshua Tucker
Creative Producer, Ben Emerson
Costume Design, Emma Stevens & Nadia Newman
Sound Design, Patrick Barnes
Lighting Design, Joshua Tucker
Set Design, Scott Maxim & Joshua Tucker
Stage Manager, Anna Barker
Assistant Stage Manager, Ace Dalziel
Mechanist, Logan Lockyer
Te Auaha Venues Team:
Will Harris, Lauren Fergusson, Claire McGoff, Olivia Kirikiri, Nell Williams & James Kearney
Musical , Theatre ,
2 hrs 30 mins
Ensemble cast delivers Sondheim’s all-important lyrics and rhythmic gymnastics with stamina, enjoyment and commitment
Review by Jo Hodgson 30th Apr 2023
“I wish … I wish to go to the festival …” Fortunately, this wish comes true for my daughter and me and we have an epic journey through the Woods with this talented cast and team from WITCH Musical Theatre (Creative Producer, Ben Emerson).
Sondheim’s Into the Woods is the ultimate ‘I want’ musical. A musical quest adventure story with the Baker (William Duignan) and his wife (Áine Gallagher) who, in their desperate attempt to have a child, have to break the Witch’s (Greer Perenara) curse on them, by finding four unique ingredients.
On their search they meet a host of characters all pursuing their own dreams and wishes: Little Red Riding Hood (Aria Leader-Fiamatai), Jack and his Mother (Tara Canton, Paula Gardyne – also Granny), Cinderella (Gayle Hammersley), two vainglorious princes (Glenn Horsfall, Jackson Burling – also Wolf)), Rupunzel (Emily Yeap), along with Cinderella’s Step mother and step-sisters (Joanne Lisik, Aimée Sullivan, Mia Alonso-Green), a mysterious man (Kevin Orlando – also Narrator), an over-zealous steward (Ed Blunden) and a cow as white as milk (Felicity Cozens – also Giant).
The ensuing story is heart-warming with pantomime-esque humour as the characters are thrust together to navigate their journeys to their happily-ever-after … Or is it?
Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning score and lyrics are magnificent. Every detail in the score, nuance in the lyric, is there for a reason and this cast manage to deliver this story with deliciousness of character and dextrous vocal facility.
Even from the sound of the 9-piece orchestra warming up, it is evident this is going to be a goodie! Then the opening driving crotchets, with co-musical director Hayden Taylor leading from the keyboard, send us marching into the woods with hardly a breath to be taken until the end of Act 1.
The creative and tech team – Lighting Designer Joshua Tucker, who is also Set Designer with Scott Maxim, Sound Designer Patrick Barnes, and Costumes by Emma Stevens and Nadia Newman – have created a wonderful storybook woodland dell using a mostly static set apart from the use of giant sliding panels to create entrances/exits and forest background.
I love that the flow of the story isn’t interrupted by un-necessary set changes and the exquisite lighting is perfect for bringing the focus needed for all the many wonderful moments in these woods. The costuming gives a contrasting palette of seasonal colours, moods, styles and status depending on the character.
The sound is, for the majority of the time, balanced and brings out the un-cluttered orchestration – which, given it would have been scored for unamplified voices originally, isn’t heavy and too dense, thankfully. The intricacies of picking out the counterpoint and individual story patter in the opening prologue is a work of art in itself!
Into the Woods is a truly monumental show (also a word I hear used to express this production experience by an audience member). Act 1 could stand alone and we would go home happy but with Act 2, we are taken into quite another realm of chaos and pathos. As Sondheim himself said, “The second act is about the consequences of not only the wishes themselves but of the methods by which the characters achieve their wishes, which are not always proper and moral.”
Fairy-tales, such as these Grimm inspired ones, have always been used to caution, to teach, to pass on knowledge from generation to generation and the stories intertwined here show that everything we do creates ripples which affect other people, that ‘No-one is alone and ‘Children will listen’. Parenting and relationships aren’t a walk in the park, times of fear and uncertainty can lead us down unchartered and unexpected pathways and even when your wish appears to be answered, it may not be what you thought you were looking for.
Theatre is a vessel for personal growth and community; this story is about personal growth and community, and in songs like ‘On the Steps of the Palace’, ‘Giants in the Sky’, ‘I Know Things Now’, and ‘Moments in the Woods’,we see Sondheim’s technique of allowing his characters to discover themselves in the presence of the audience, rather than describing themselves to the audience, culminating in the audience becoming part of the community both emotionally as well as intellectually.
This cast has been well drilled – by Director Nick Lerew, Co-Musical Directors Maya Handa Naff/Hayden Taylor and Choreographer Greta Casey-Solly – to deliver the all-important lyrics and rhythmic gymnastics that is so Sondheim, with every ounce of their beings.
If I have a quibble, I do find the myriad accents a curious choice, sometimes different ones within the same character – but really, it’s a fantasy world with many different stories, from many different places so I decide it probably doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things.
Greer Perenara leaves everything on the floor in her palpable portrayal of‘Last Midnight’, while Áine Gallagher shows stunning lyric delivery and vocal chops throughout her characters journey. Tara Canton navigates Jack’s adolescent discovery in ‘Giants In The Sky’and nails the fiendishly difficult melodic passages (also the favourite song for my daughter). William Duignan’s bewildered Baker is endearing and Glenn Horsfall and Jackson Burling have the audience in stitches with their portrayal of the agonised princes.
My 12 year old’s take is, “It is a wonderful show, although there were no other children in the audience. But its fine for us although it does get a bit dark and violent in the 2nd act, but that’s OK because, ‘fairytales are really only sanitised for the (adult) readers who read them out loud, not for the children’.” (Approximated quote from Terry Pratchet’s, Hogfather)
This work is a true ensemble show, every character and piece of the jigsaw is important to make the whole. No-one can waver in their energy and intention of delivery and this WITCH production’s cast show their stamina, enjoyment and commitment through the entire 2½ + hours. So do take a moment to go Into the Woods this week, you may just discover something about yourself too.
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Crafted with love and attention to detail
Review by Max Rashbrooke 29th Apr 2023
Fairy tales have always provided what management consultants call ‘teachable moments’; indeed the earliest stories probably derive from the need to warn the young about the many dangers (woods, wolves, strange men) to be avoided in life. Into the Woods, a morally complex mash-up of multiple such tales – including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood – is very much in the same vein.
This 1987 musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine takes the locus of many fairy tales – the dark forest – and turns it into a proving ground, a place where characters are made, shaped and evaluated. The central narrative is that a baker and his wife need to lift a curse by collecting fairy-tale staples to give to a witch: a red riding hood, a lock of golden hair, and so on. But this is only a device to examine the often-difficult relationships between parents and children, wives and husbands – and how to act morally in suboptimal situations. [More]
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer