Review: Into the Woods

Finn Brewer 15 March 2014

This, the last ADC mainshow of the term, is a marvelous success, and director Andrew Room deserves a great deal of praise for making this neurotic fairytale sparkle on a student theatre stage. Into the Woods has less show-stopping tunes, and more great individual performances, than a conventional musical; and it was clear Room had worked through each scene with care, bringing out all of the dry and deadpan humour in the lyrics. But it didn't hurt that the casting for each role was wonderful: I liked especially Lily Grieve in a tricky role as the Witch, and Freddie Crossley as the Mysterious Man, but in fact all the cast were more than competent.

Into the Woods is a delight come rain or shine, and it's because of the appeal of its central metaphor, the woods: the challenges and perils in life when you set out to get what you wish for. The second act risks becoming a little too preachy – “careful the things you say, children will listen” is one of many morals that are belted at us – but the overall message is less about responsibility than one might think for a fairytale story. There are no black and white conclusions by the end, for doing the right thing might get you killed too. The Prince, although acting entirely irresponsibly in 'Any Moment', makes a good point when he sings: "a moment big or small, is a moment after all." This brilliantly sums up what a musical is: a series of 'moments', the songs, at which dilemmas are played out, passions released, and friends and lovers are divided or reunited. Such moments are what make life worth living.

This is a big and fun production that makes the best out of the limitations of the ADC stage, managing to create a spectacular scale in a small space. A revolving woodland platform created the feeling of tumultuous movement through different scenes and characters. Often the little elements were the best: the witch's wand and Rapunzel's hair, for instance, were employed wittily. First night blunders can be forgiven to some extent, but what prevented this from being an outstanding production were too many lines lost under the music because the microphones failed to come on – a real shame, because the dialogue and lyrics of this show are so funny and memorable.

Even so, I can't recommend this hysterical yet heartwarming show enough: everyone should go and see it before the end of term.