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Into the Woods is perfectly at home in the beautiful surrounds of Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. The musical is a hodgepodge of fairytales seen through the eyes and ears of a young boy who has run away from home.
The script is fun and never takes itself too seriously.
It’s very clear the actors enjoy performing the linguistic stunts of Steven Sondheim’s acrobatic script as they weave in and out of the multi-tiered platforms that make “the woods”. With its own series of twists and turns the musical sometimes feels as though the dialogue is growing exponentially almost of its own accord.
The runaway boy’s imagination in turn runs away with him and brings the audience along for the ride.
The imagined characters climb up hills, trees, Rapunzel’s golden hair and a giant beanstalk to fulfill their fairytale quests: Jack must sell his beloved cow, Little Red Riding Hood is off to deliver tasty delights to grandma and Cinderella yearns to go to the King’s festival. But, as we’re told by the horrid witch (wonderfully played by Hannah Waddingham), life isn’t that simple and multiple quests in a single wood result in a series of comic mix-ups. Little Red Riding Hood enjoys being eaten by the wolf and the Baker’s wife (played by Jenna Russell) has a spontaneous roll in the undergrowth with Prince Charming (who then proceeds to prance off with, “I was brought up to be charming, not sincere”).
One moment in particular moment proved to be a crowd-pleaser: a life-sized giant peeping through the real-life trees of Regent’s Park was so beautifully conceived that the audience applauded as the monster appeared. The surprise was only compounded when the giant spoke using Judi Dench’s distinctive voice.
As the fairytales take place within the mind of the runaway boy, an adult audience is relieved of any knee-jerk reaction to dismiss them as juvenile. Instead, we head straight into the woods with the characters and enjoy the adventure.
Into The Woods offers a charming evening of light entertainment in arguably the most beautiful outdoor theatre in England. It runs at 2hours 45mins so be sure to take advantage of the barbeque before duskâ€¦ or take along some magic beans.