James Brining’s production of Into The Woods closes tonight (25th June) after a successful run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. By all accounts, it appears to have been a roaring success, garnering four- and five-star reviews both locally and nationally.
The Stage awarded the show – a co-production with Opera North – four stars. “James Brining’s bold staging of Sondheim and Lapine’s dark fairytale fusion must surely go down in the annals as the first truly epic account,” reported Roger Foss, who was particularly impressed with the scale and ambition of the show. “With a cast of two dozen principals drawn from the Opera North chorus, Sondheim’s complex harmonies and lyrics are given full vocal measure… A skilfully conceived collaboration, delighting and challenging the ear, the eye and the mind.”
Rupert Christiansen for The Telegraph was equally as impressed, also awarding it four stars. “James Brining’s production, exuberantly designed by Colin Richmond and expertly conducted by Jim Holmes, is terrific. Springing off the idea of a primary school classroom in which pupils are led out into the forest by a narrating teacher in a high-vis jacket, it mixes everyday clothes and objects with picture-book fantasy and rich humour. Its cast is so good that I wish I had space to list every member by name – instead, just let me take my hat sweepingly off and hail the brilliant team that is Opera North’s chorus.”
The Guardian applauded the Opera North choristers in Alfred Hickling’s four-star review. “The real ace up the production’s sleeve is a large ensemble of classically trained voices as equally adept in Rodgers and Gershwin as in Mozart and Puccini. Opera North’s choristers can really act as well.” Hickling goes on to single-out Claire Pascoe as the “eye-rolling witch who trades power and influence for youth and beauty – and looks as if she ought to get a refund.”
A three-star review in The Times was less gushing but still recommended a visit. “Its concept is only partially successful,” wrote Sam Marlowe, “and some of the singing and acting lacks the nimbleness and elasticity that this complex, coruscating piece demands. Yet Sondheim’s score sounds ravishing…”
If you missed this production then fear not – a scaled-down interpretation of Into The Woods is due to open at the Menier Chocolate Factory on 1st July for 10 weeks. Society members should look out for announcements about a visit and exclusive after-show Q&A with the cast and creatives.