First and foremost I would like to say I have not seen the recent film version
of Into the Woods and do not think I have to after seeing such a wonderful performance put on by Theatre Western. Rather than completely romanticising the magical elements of Into the Woods, Theatre Western made it both funny and heart warming at the same time. The humour in the script was brought out by the physicality of the actors and commendable sound effects while the musical itself was made to be beautifully magical with the aesthetics of set, costume and lighting.
Director Gillian Hosick made great use of the stage with the wonderful set pieces used throughout the show. It kicked off with an opening number that at first first featured solely the orchestra, allowing the audience to take in just how talented they are. As Cinderella (Jacqueline Verellen), Jack (Robert Popoli) and The Baker and his Wife (Stephen Ingram and Nicola Klein) came to life on stage, it felt as if storybook characters were popping out of their pages, bringing the magical world of Into the Woods right to us. The transition from their homes to the woods was seamless each time it happened and I truly felt transported into a different world.
Julia Dmytryshm who plays The Witch was by far one of my favourite characters in the show. Her hair, costume and makeup were absolutely horrifying—in the best way possible—and Dmytryshm’s acting, in combination with her powerful voice made The Witch seem hilarious and terrifying at the same time. Dmytryshym, however, played The Witch better as an actual witch rather than when she was in her “human” form. While in an absolutely beautiful gown (that even made an audience member whistle), her actions still seemed slightly restrained. It was as if the bulky witches costume never came off. Nonetheless, her vocals remained strong and her stage presence was notable throughout the show.
Nicola Klein embodied the perfect Wife and counterpart to The Baker (Ingram). Her facial expressions livened up every scene she was in and she did a wonderful job playing up the character of a loyal and protective wife. Klein and Ingram made the best partners on stage. They were adorable beyond belief and exuded great chemistry in all of their scenes—even when they were having spats.
Kaitlin Benoit did a fantastic job playing a young, bratty, Little Red. Her tantrums on stage were absolutely hilarious and charming at the same time. The scene with Little Red and The Wolf (Thomas Krasey) had rather macabre elements that seemed to remind me of scenes between Edward and Bella in Twilight. The Wolf was downright terrifying but simultaneously entertaining, making the exchange between him and Little Red an amusing one.
The duo that stole the show, however, was Ben Braz as Cinderella’s Prince and Kurtis Whittle as Rapunzel’s Prince. Their synchronized dancing on stage was a riot to watch and each of them played their parts extremely well. The fact that they were disloyal characters did not matter at all; the audience still loved them and ate them up each time they were on stage.
There were, unfortunately, some technical mishaps during the performance. Some of the actors’ voices, especially when speaking rather than singing, were also overpowered by the music, making it hard to understand some parts. Some numbers were left with blank spaces where there should have been audible speech or singing, which took away from the magic of the rest of the show. After intermission a few of these problems seemed to be sorted out but the characters that did not have a microphone at all still remained almost inaudible—and I was in the third row.
While the vocals and acting were top-notch, I’d have to say the most commendable parts of the show were the incredible sets, costume and makeup. The production was extremely high-calibre—something that is not typically seen in student performances. The makeup was absolutely beautiful and paired so wonderfully with the elaborate costumes on stage. The actors and their roles were enhanced by the set that surrounded them and the costumes they were adorned in. Everything truly did seem magical in this production. The production team as well as the crew really deserve applause for what they were able to create on stage.
All-in-all, I would definitely recommend seeing this show. It is fully loaded with a talented cast, crew, and orchestra and truly is a musical at its best. Into the Woods continues to run Friday and Saturday at 8pm in The Mustang Lounge in the University Community Centre. Tickets are $15 for students and $20 for general seating. Don’t miss out on yet another fantastic performance by Theatre Western!