REVIEW: Victorian Opera’s INTO THE WOODS

Stunning cast in superb production

By Adam Tonking

Into The Woods is admittedly one of my favourite musicals. With the movie adaptation due out at the end of the year, now is the perfect opportunity to see Stephen Sondheim’s masterful exploration of fairy tales in all its original glory, and fortunately, Victorian Opera have staged an immensely enjoyable production of this wonderful show.

Victorian Opera 2014 - Into the Woods © Jeff Busby

The amazing cast deftly handle all of Sondheim’s tricky score and dense lyrics. Truly impressive, in that even at its most tongue-twisting, not a single syllable was lost on the audience, allowing us to enjoy every witty line and every beautifully crafted lyric. Sondheim writes wonderful characters for women, the three main ones in Into The Woods being The Baker’s Wife, The Witch, and Cinderella , and the three actresses in these roles were more than up to the task.

Christina O’Neill was perfect as The Baker’s Wife, never missing a single moment in the character’s development, bringing energy to some of the weaker spoken scenes, and providing blessed relief in the challenging, exposition-heavy second act with her stunning rendition of “Moments In The Woods.” Queenie van de Zandt was in usual glorious form as The Witch, bringing an engaging pragmatism to the role’s more obvious malice, allowing a clearer understanding of the character. Her skilled handling of The Witch’s rap was awe-inspiring, but she was truly breathtaking in my favourite song “Last Midnight.” Lucy Maunder as Cinderella was spectacular, and her duets with O’Neill were some of the most touching of the night. Among the men, particular praise should go to John Diedrich as the Mysterious Man for bringing one of the weakest characters and a terribly awkward part to life.

Clearly I cannot lavish enough praise on Victorian Opera’s Into The Woods. This is simply a magnificent production of a gorgeous show. Don’t miss your chance to see it. It’s playing from now until Saturday 26 July at the Arts Centre in Melbourne. Book tickets at www.victorianopera.com.au or by calling 1300 182 183.

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