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Into The Woods

July 30, 2011

Event: “Into The Woods” by Dream Academy
Venue: Esplanade Theatre
Run: 29th Jul – 7th Aug 2011

Dream Academy’s Delightful Foray

First things first, it is so wonderful to see Emma Yong back on stage once again.

Truly one of the most talented musical theatre actresses we have in theatre today.

I had the pleasure of catching Dream Academy’s ambitious new production of Stephen Sondheim’s acclaimed “Into The Woods” on opening night.

As such, minor glitches and kinks in the show must be forgiven, since they are par for the course on opening night, and hence we shan’t dwell too much on those.

This is the biggie – a grand and elaborate staging of “Into The Woods”, complete with giant tree, intricate costumes, lavish makeup, fake cow and all.

Publicity for this show began as early as March this year, and credit goes to Dream Academy for crafting a sustained marketing campaign on Facebook and the like for almost four months straight.

The stacked cast includes Emma Yong, Sebastian Tan, Adrian Pang, Selena Tan, Lim Kay Siu, Denise Tan, Robin Goh, RJ Rosales, George Chan, and many others.

The musical is directed by Glen Goei, choreographed by George Chan, and musically directed by Elaine Chan.

I wonder if anyone else caught the beautiful irony in the casting – Emma Yong reprising the role of Cinderella (which she has done twice in “Cinderel-LAH!”), and Sebastian Tan reprising the role of Jack (which he once did in “Jack and the Bean Sprout”).

So it was kinda like déjà vu in some sense, seeing Emma Yong being bullied by her step-sisters, and seeing Sebastian Tan trying to sell away his cow for beans.

But good fun nonetheless.

You could probably say that Dream Academy hardly spared any expenses for this production.

The costumes are elaborate, the sets are impressive (the centrepiece being, obviously, the huge tree in the middle of the stage), and the cast is huge.

Sondheim, being known more for his lyrics and complexity of music rather than for hummable melodies, once again blows us away with lyrics and rhymes of impeccable quality.

(“The end justifies the beans”? Wicked!)

Songs that stood out for me were “Agony” and “On the Steps of the Palace” for their high comedic value, and “Your Fault” for its complexity and the intelligence in its dramatic construction.

Music-wise, there weren’t any tunes that seemed to jump out at you in the way a Richard Rodgers tune would, although the “into the woods” refrain did manage to lodge itself in one’s memory.

Credit goes to Denise Tan for once again putting in such an exceptional performance.

In my opinion she was easily the star of the night, although RJ Rosales, Ria Jones and Adrian Pang deserve high praise as well.

I thought the portrayal of the Giant’s wife via the lips on the screen projection seemed a tad out-of-place.

It seemed a rather strange and clumsy way to portray her presence, but then again, I can’t really think of a better way to do it either.

Generally “Into The Woods” was rather pacey, although the story did seem to take a number of rather bizarre and fantastical twists, which made it hard for one to take the story very seriously, nor to be able to be fully vested in the story.

Lastly, is Dream Academy’s “Into The Woods” an entertaining show?

It certainly is.

But one should not expect humour in the mould of the recent “Beauty Kings”.

The humour is much more subtle, and far less in-your-face.

And if you’re keen on Broadway lyrics which blow your mind away, then this is the show you’re looking for.

As I’ve mentioned before, Sondheim musicals don’t come our way very often.

Kudos to Dream Academy for daring to take a show like this on, and for pulling off what is in my opinion a very remarkable piece of musical theatre.

Into the woods, it’s time to go!

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