We have all grown up with fairytales, and been enthralled by the spell they cast over us. These stories have had several different interpretations over recent years, each with their own unique twists. ICAC’s Into the Woods does just that, incorporating the Grimm Brothers’ fairytales, like Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood, with the original story of a baker and his wife who must fulfil a witch’s demands. The first act consists of these characters fumbling their way through the woods, with several memorable scenes with outstanding performances. Eamon Dooley, as the Wolf, exuded both creepiness and charisma, highlighted by a dark yet comedic musical number with Red Riding Hood. The two Princes, played by Owen Lane and Julian Soderbaum, shared a chemistry that had the audience chuckling whenever they were on stage, particularly with their duet ‘Agony’. Even little touches like how extras came rushing in as birds whenever Cinderella called for them had me smiling.
The costume designer, Ginny Droppert, did a wonderful job crafting detailed costumes, which fit each character perfectly. The orchestral music in the background paired well with the scenes presented, establishing the tone and atmosphere. All the performers had crisp voices and hit all the right notes. And yet, something felt missing. Throughout the first act, I was absorbed in the whole production, giggling at the changes to these stories that we all know so well. But when the second act came around, my investment died down. Even now, it is difficult to say how I feel about this performance as a whole. When the second act came along, the play seemed to meander, to the point where its scenes became redundant. I was actually quite looking forward to see what happened after the ‘happily ever after’, and to explore how the various characters did not truly fulfil their needs, but I didn’t feel anything when these themes were examined. It was like the play wanted these silly characters from the first act to become these seriously complex individuals, and I don’t think it transitioned very well. It seemed as though the strong comedic direction and charming characters of the first act could not adequately adapt to the play’s shift in tone, leaving the second act feeling a little lacklustre.
This is, of course, a story that has had numerous renditions, and I can definitely see why people would enjoy this musical. I overheard members of the audience saying how much they loved it, humming to many of the catchy songs. And I must say that, despite my criticisms, I admire the passion and fun the crew had with this production. I’m glad that I attended just so I could witness the series of odd events that transpired in the woods.
ICAC’s production of Into the Woods ran from the 17th-19th of May in the Union Theatre.