"Into The Woods" Review - Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group

EUSOG Presents 'Into The Woods'
Design: James Crang

"Into The Woods" is a show that a lot of people love. As per usual, I've barely heard of it so I had no idea what to expect from this production. It can be summed up very easily; first rate, in simply every way.

Into The Woods is helmed by the direction of Sean Vannet, and lead by an extremely strong cast. A big risk of student theatre, is that very often ambitious shows don't have a large enough pool of actors to find someone absolutely perfect for the role, but all actors here were absolutely perfect for their roles. Additionally, it didn't fall into any of the usual pitfalls of student musical theatre, in particular, the acting, singing and dancing levels all seemed to be on one level, a very high one, when quite often the acting or dance can fall behind the vocals.

Whilst every actor has a brilliant moment to shine, some particular standout performances include Julia Weingaertner as the Baker's Wife, and Gordon Stackhouse as Jack. Both of these actors in particular just feel like the parts were written for them. Rob Merriam as the Baker also lead the show with utmost professionalism. Additionally, Lori Flannigan as the Witch, and Jess Butcher as Cinderella were massively entertaining. Finally, the beautiful vocals in particular of Livi Wollaston as Rapunzel astounded me every time she was on stage.

The set is beautiful. The trees look intentionally low budget, with the use of pages of books being the leaves, and it works really well. The way the set works is the actors moving around the trees, which show different parts of the woods. It's incredibly charming, and adds to the storytelling feeling of the entire show, tied together by Rory McKeon's adorable Narrator. My only criticism of the direction links in with the set. Despite not sitting very far back at all (the theatre is tiered with the stage at the bottom), when actors were at the top of the trees, they were practically invisible.

The costumes were also stunning, and once again worked really well with the storytelling vibe. Particular highlights included the sashes of the two Princes played by Ewan Bruce and Rory Bayliss-Chalmers, labelling them as "Charming" and "Handsome" respectively, a fairly accurate description of their characters.

The lighting design was beautiful, but unfortunately, the sound lagged behind. That comment is not in regards to the orchestra, lead by Richard Blaqui√®re's fantastic musical direction, and sounds nothing short of West End standard. The criticism of the sound refers to the microphones in particular, with balance often being off, and sometimes only being switched on a number of seconds late. 

Overall, "Into The Woods" suffers from only very minor shortcomings, and if not for some technical errors, would be an entirely flawless production. The nearly 3 hour production feels short, in the sense it goes very quickly because it's so enjoyable. It is without a doubt the best musical production I've reviewed so far, and best non-professional musical production I've seen in a very long time.

Verdict: ★★★★

Into the Woods" runs until 23rd November at Pleasance Theatre.



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