A reviews round-up of Into the Woods at the Theatre Royal Bath
Terry Gilliam and Leah Hausman’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods opened last night, 24 August 2022, at the Theatre Royal Bath.
Into the Woods runs in Bath until 10 September 2022, and there is hope the production might transfer into the West End.
Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam and US choreographer and director Leah Hausman have directed the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s much-loved musical, produced by Scenario Two and Theatre Royal Bath Productions.
The show is designed by JonBausor, with costume designer Antony McDonald, video designer Will Duke, sound designer Paul Groothuis, and casting director David Grindrod.
An accomplished cast includes Audrey Brisson (Amélie The Musica)l as Cinderella; Olivier Award nominee Nicola Hughes (Chicago, Fosse, Porgy and Bess) as the Witch; TV and stage actor Rhashan Stone (Hollington Drive) as the Baker; Julian Bleach (Shockheaded Peter) as the Mysterious Man; Alex Young (Follies at the National Theatre) as the Baker’s Wife; Gillian Bevan (Doctors; Teachers) as Jack’s Mother; and Britain’s Got Talent star Charlotte Jaconelli as Florinda.
Other cast includes Nathanael Campbell (Come From Away) as the Wolf / the Prince, Maria Conneely as Rapunzel, Lauren Conroy as Little Red Riding Hood, Phoebe Fildes (The Mousetrap) as Lucinda, Samuel Holmes (Crazy For You, Kiss Me, Kate) as the Steward, Henry Jenkinson as the Prince, and Barney Wilkinson(Sunset Boulevard, Bat Out of Hell) as Jack.
Into the Woods has music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine.
Read reviews from the Guardian, the Times, the Telegraph, the Stage and more.
More reviews to follow
Into The Woods reviews
"Terry Gilliam’s hallucinogenic take on Sondheim rises from the ashes of cancellation"
"Axed by the Old Vic, the ex-Python's first, visually astonishing go at directing a musical is a must-support rather than a mere must-see"
"What’s the verdict? The evening is a logistical triumph in terms of working wonders in a smaller venue than originally envisaged; and for reasons of artistic self-expression alone, it’s a must-support rather than a mere must-see. Still, at this point in time the experience warrants, I’d say, two and a half cheers."
"So far, so spellbinding. Vocally, it’s more of a mixed bag, with a few of the best lines oddly thrown away. It’s bound to bed in given time but more heft, attack and pace wouldn’t go amiss to counter the lurking tendency of Sondheim’s lyrics (book by James Lapine) to sound samey in their concise irony and knowingness; a darker reprise of the first, wish-filled quest protracts the tale almost to the point of déjà-vu enervation."
"A spiky and spectacular delight"
"Here a Pollock’s paper `Toy-Theatre frame, intricately Victorian in monochrome, surrounds Bath’s proscenium. Drawn figures blend towards the real galleries, actors emerge solid as nursery-figures from paper boxes. Jon Bausor’s design and Anthony McDonald’s costumes joyfully create a living toybox of people and creatures against fairytale houses and immense moving treetrunks."
"... in hands like this – Gilliam’sand Hausman’s – Into The Woods becomes an event to remember for life."
"Terry Gilliam’s ‘cancelled’ Sondheim is sheer spectacle"
"The visuals are what linger in the memory. The moment you enter the ornate auditorium, Jon Bausor’s sumptuous set design — inspired by a Victorian toy theatre — transports you into a hypnotic realm of make-believe. As you would expect with a Terry Gilliam production – he co-directs alongside the choreographer Leah Hausman – this lavish revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s tangled compendium of fairytales is never less than eye-catching."
"Audrey Brisson — star of the recent West End version of the film Amélie – makes a winning Cinderella, but her presence also generates unwelcome comparisons. Amélie, another show that drew on the fantastical, floated along on a stunningly inventive and varied actor-musician score. For all its intellectual veneer, Into the Woods is, musically, much thinner fare. Sondheim’s insistent orchestral motifs, crisply played by a band under the direction of Stephen Higgins, begin to lose their allure."
"Glossy, stylised vision"
"Terry Gilliam and Leah Hausman’s opulent, if overstuffed, production of Sondheim’s musical fable"
"There’s a rich vein of menace running through our best-loved fairytales, one that’s thoughtfully teased out in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s frequently revived musical Into the Woods. This new production, from Leah Hausman and renowned filmmaker and animator Terry Gilliam, delves especially deeply into this dark landscape, rendering it in vivid colours and lush, imaginative, occasionally apocalyptic imagery."
"They stage each scene at a quick pace, all the better to squeeze in all their big, visual set pieces. And although it’s all handled with precision – Hausman’s choreography is particularly crisp – there’s so much going on at any given moment that it can at times feel overwrought. Specific lyrics and important character beats are lost, and it’s not until this magical world has been largely depopulated due to the predation of giants that we start to see the woods for the trees."
"Terry Gilliam’s rollicking take on Sondheim’s ‘fairytale collision’"
"The ex-Python’s production is visually enticing, playful and dreamlike but doesn’t quite reach the mournful depths of parental anxiety that run through the story"
"Terry Gilliam and Leah Hausman’s atmospheric production does not quite manage to pull us into the musical’s mournful depths but it entertains enough and excels in its aesthetics of dark, dreamlike otherworldliness as Cinderella (Audrey Brisson), Red Ridinghood (Lauren Conroy), Jack of the Beanstalk (Barney Wilkinson), Rapunzel (Maria Conneely) and of course the Baker (Rhashan Stone) and his wife (Alex Young) career and rollick in the thick of the woods."
"Some of the characterisation steers close to pantomime, especially in Cinderella’s stepmother and sisters, but the central fairytale figures are played relatively straight. This realism should render them more human and affecting, but they feel slightly featureless and generic instead, while the humorous lines in James Lapine’s book and Sondheim’s sparkling lyrics feels oddly dampened."
"The spectacle in Sondheim and Lapine's musical comes at a price"
"... while the production is impeccably cast, beautifully designed, and with a couple of moments of sheer wonderment and dazzle, its staging is also overtly busy at times and lacking an emotional core. This is a work that by the end leaves its audience emotionally shattered. It's currently visually sensational as one would expect from that visual master Gilliam while remaining stand-off-ish in tone."
"The work's beating heart though is Alex Young and Rhashan Stone as the couple desperate for a child and willing to do anything to conceive. While Stone may not have the vocal chops that the rest of this crack team of musical theatre vets have, he brings warm everyman energy to him, a decent man who finds his morals tested, while Young is all breathy bewilderment when she finds herself coiled against a Prince in the woods, literally living out someone else's story. There is strength in depth casting with Gillian Bevan as Jack's Mum and Samuel Holmes as the Steward also bringing clarity and depth to supporting roles."
"Gloating may be unseemly but Terry Gilliam has certainly earned the right to crow about his stunning new production of Stephen Sondheim's fairy-tale musical."
"The production takes childlike delight in every aspect of James Lapine's story, which weaves together a tapestry of fairy tales."
"Over the course of three hours (including an interval), Sondheim's score does become a bit of a chore. But few productions will ever make such light work of his sprawling musical canvas."
"A perfect 'combination of innocence and malevolence'"
"Following the jiggery-wokery that cancelled this production at The Old Vic, Bath's Theatre Royal has embraced Terry Gilliam's extravagant version of Stephen Sondheim's Grimm musical with alacrity."
"Jon Bausor’s sets and props deliver the kind of shock and awe one hopes for and rarely gets."
"Gilliam’s combination of innocence and malevolence is a perfect fit for Sondheim’s work, however, and his child’s eye vision is mischievously entertaining."
"Terry Gilliam and Leah Hausman’s take on Sondheim is just a bit too much"
"The time for Into the Woods has come"
"That Monty Python-style foot is one of the most effective strokes in a visually noisy production (designed by Jon Bausor) in which everything is larkily underlined"
"Sondheim deserves similar, less fussy illumination. They say he is not hummable, but rhythms and lyrics – hitting a core while sounding skewwhiff – tick away long term in your blood."