With the success of the television series Once Upon a Time and the many fairy tale movies hitting our screens it is timely that WAAPA chose Into the Woods as its final musical for the departing third year music theatre students.
I remember seeing a video of the Broadway production many years ago: my memory of this production was a bright cheerful one in which fairy tale characters lives were intertwined as they dance, sang and skipped across the stage. This new production, directed by Tanya Mitford and performed by the WAAPA third year musical theatre students, looks and feels nothing like the original as Mitford explores the darker side of Sodheim’s musical.
The audience glimpse the world they are about to enter as vines hang from the ceiling of the The Geoff Gibbs Theatre foyer. Upon descending into the theatre, the audience is confronted by a set draped in vines and a child laying in a hospital bed in intensive care. With her father, played by Ainsley Melham, sitting in vigil by her bedside the theatre is filled with hospital noises and beeping heart monitors even before the production begins. This somewhat uneasy picture immediately made me realise this production was not going to be a light and fluffy musical about fairy tales.
As the lights dim and the orchestra (lead by Lloyd Butler) began, the audience was transported to a world of “not so happily ever after” as the father begins to tell his ill daughter adventures of fairy tale characters as they venture Into the Woods.
[pull_left]Kerrie Anne Greenland gives a faultless and powerful performance as the witch[/pull_left]
This production allows for a majority of the cast to have their shining moments as the various fairy tale characters share their story. Kerrie Anne Greenland gives a faultless and powerful performance as the witch. The Baker, Nicholas Hedger, and his wife, Mia Donatelli give a convincing performance as the childless couple desperate and willing to do whatever it takes to conceive. As I watched their relationship chart both joys and frustrations, I found myself reflecting on society’s childless couples as they choose IVF and struggle with their emotions. There are many times in the production where one is challenged to reflect on this journey called life and its ultimate end in death.
Diana Perini as Little Red and Matthew Verevis as Jack, provide some of the production’s comic relief. Perini’s sticky fingers in her scene with the Baker and his wife make for hilarious visual comedy as she stuffs bread and sticky buns into her basket. Rob Mallett and Tim Grimes as the princes, pounce around the stage singing of the agony love causes in a fabulously charming yet pretentious and self absorbed way.
[pull_left]The third year musical theatre students together with their production teams graduate having created a thought provoking, moving piece of musical theatre[/pull_left]
The costumes, designed by Stephanie Cullingford, reflected the fairy tale characters beautifully, while also being able to give a sense of the darker side of this production. Design highlights included Jack’s cow, puppeteered by various cast members, the golden harp, Rapunzel’s beautiful long reaching hair as yellow as corn and the witches costume which resembles a rotting tree trunk as she hobbles around the stage with the aid of crutches.
The set, designed by Sheridan Elphick, was eerie as large vines hung over the stage. Cast easily manoeuvred around a multi spilt level stage at times jumping onto and throwing themselves from it.
This is a production that makes audience members think and feel something. As I left my seat and looked around the theatre, there were people with tissues wiping away tears. The third year musical theatre students together with their production teams graduate having created a thought provoking, moving piece of musical theatre and have certainly achieved Mitford’s wish for this production:
“I know after immersing myself in this piece, I am anxious to hug my family just that little bit tighter. I can only wish that upon leaving here, you feel the urge to do the same.”
And as with all their productions this year, this is another one not to be missed.
Into the Woods
The Geoff Gibbs Theatre
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
2 Bradford Street
Tickets through WAAPA box office – 9370 6895