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Witty, clever and endlessly inventive, Stephen Sondheim and Jack Lapine’s interwoven amalgam of famous fairytales by Grimm is one of my all-time favourite musicals and visiting American company Fiasco Theater’s homespun version doesn’t disappoint.

It sometimes has the (rather charming) feel of a very superior amdram production with everyday items employed as props (a curtain on a rail serves to dress both Cinderella’s stepsisters simultaneously, friendly birds are nothing more than singly folded bits of paper), and the cast accompanies valiant pianist Evan Rees on a host of diverse instruments ranging from a bassoon to a xylophone.

Claire Karpen makes a sweet-voiced Cinderella who desperately wants to go to the festival, but then isn’t too sure that she actually wants her Prince when he pursues her through the woods on a makeshift hobbyhorse. Jessie Austrian (ironically visibly pregnant in real life) makes a sensible Baker’s wife, yearning for the baby she can’t conceive because of a witch’s curse, whilst (as the Baker) co-director Ben Steinfeld has a voice I’d love to hear more of. Emily Young’s Little Red scoffs all the buns - and cheekily appropriates a bottle of wine- when she goes to visit her granny, and a deadpan Andy Grotelueschen gets the laughs as Milky White, a milk-less white cow. 

credit: Catherine Ashmore

Things turn darker after the interval, when fulfilled wishes fail to bring the anticipated happiness, but it all ends on a hopeful note as the remaining characters unite to find a solution to the mess their actions have got them into. All very apt!

Menier Chocolate Factory, 53 Southwark Street, SE1 1RU

Tube:- London Bridge

until 17th September  

£39.50 – £45.00 (Meal Deals £47.50) 

Theatre Review: Into the Woods
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