Convoluted but entertaining

A new season at the Fortune Theatre opened on Saturday evening, with a full house to watch the award-winning Sondheim musical Into the Woods.

This musical, with libretto from the book by James Lapine, takes childhood storybook characters and creates many bizarre, downright absurd situations, as familiar story-lines twist and distort to accommodate the theme of a childless baker and his wife who wish for a family.

Narrator Peter Hayden began with ''Once upon a time'' but from then on the convoluted
plot is far too complex to precis here.

Musical director Mark Dorrell provided strong forward-moving piano accompaniment, and a cast of 17 delivered the marathon work directed by Jonathon Hendry with choreography by Jessica Latton.

Clear, fast dialogue and song brought wild and wacky interpretation to tales of Little Red Riding Hood (Rose Pickard), Cinderella (Awhimai Fraser), Rapunzel, (Sophie Morris) and Jack (Nic Laughton), the lad who cut down a bean-stalk with disastrous repercussions which dominated Act 2.

Julie Edwards was his doting but despairing mother.

Outstanding were Bryony Skillington's portrayal of a terrifying, raucous witch, and the baker (Jonathan Martin) and his wife (Kelly Hocking) who yelled and argued together in wonderful precision.

The scene where Granny (Frith Horan) and Red Riding Hood (a charming lass with a penchant for eating cookies) were cut from the nasty wolf's body was so convincing, and there were many philosophical life skills to be gleaned from the humorous dialogue.

The two princes were Max Beal and Joe Witkowski, who was ''raised to be charming and not sincere'', and Cinderella's family comprised Cherie Moore, Sophie Wright, Summer Millet, Bryn Monk and Joshua Crammond, whose bovine characteristics also delighted the audience as Jack's cow, Milky White.

Lighting with animated backdrops, sound effects, colourful costuming and a very workable set to facilitate dozens of rapid on and off-stage moves contributed to this very professional show.

Great entertainment!

-By Elizabeth Bouman

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