“I’m not nice, I’m just right”
Fiasco Theater’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s evergreen Into the Woods was a big success over in the US and its actor-muso ethos seems ideally suited for this transfer to the Menier Chocolate Factory. It’s also an approach that pays dividends with the material, Sondheim and James Lapine’s interrogation of the world of fairy tales and what happy ever after really means.
Stripped back and doubled up, Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld’s fully actor-musician production makes a virtue of the communal spirit and really makes you notice how much of an ensemble show it really is. Not just in how each of the storybook characters get their chance to shine (or not, as the case may be) but in the relationships, of both family and friends, with which we surround ourselves, just to save us from those moments in the woods.
It might not sound like much but for a show that is so familiar to so many, it just feels like a little bit of magic being unearthed, a moment of real revelation lovingly put forth that proves the quality of the writing but also the value of the enterprise, a thoroughly charming and enchanting retread. Some British talent has been brought in to replace some of the original US cast – Laura Tebbitt shining as the Baker’s Wife and Harry Hepple and Steffan Lloyd-Evans slipping in seamlessly, alongside Andy Grotelueschen and Patrick Mulryan as real stand-outs.