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Into the Woods

August 5, 2011

Don’t expect singalong melodies or soothing tunes. But, as characteristic of Sondheim musicals, expect bouts of witty lyricism. The poetry was riddleful (if there’s such a word) and it had its own set of rhymes. And in what seem like “chaos” at first as fairytales converge, the musical moved on at a fast pace. The audience was kept engaged in the continuous flow of events, the twists and turns, ups and downs, that there wasn’t a dull moment as we were “pushed” along the story together with the characters as they bustled on stage to fulfil their destinies.

Although I am not that familiar with Sondheim’s musicals/writings, it is known to me that the beauty and genius of his works lay in his lyrics. And there are some clear morals/lessons taught. Be careful what you wish for as it might cause repercussions not just for yourself, but to others. And you have to learn contentment at some point, or else there’ll be unending wishes. And so, what happens when a fairytale ends? Reality. Things we do have ramifications and you’ve got to handle your own problems and decisions, just as how the narrator died in the 2nd Act, leaving the story to be told by the characters themselves. And the funny thing was, all the trouble started with a bag of beans. See how sometimes the most trivia of things (芝麻绿豆) can spark a long-drawn fiasco, all for nothing and back to square one. And don’t we just like to blame everyone else? But good thing at the end, each took responsibility and worked together, growing in maturity and wisdom. There were some sacrifices along the way, but that’s life isn’t it?

One scene felt a little redundant though, and that was the baker’s wife’s affair with one of the princes. If it were to cause the breakup of the prince and Cinderella, or the irony of the baker’s supposition of the prince’s philandering ways to Cinderella,  I felt it wasn’t totally necessary or fitted well. But maybe there’s a moral behind that? Don’t get distracted and tarry, or you might just lose your life, literally.

Performed as Dream Academy’s tribute to Broadway musicals and a homecoming for some of the cast and director, the production saw a strong cast of our much-loved actors and actresses, and also Emma Yong’s return to the theatre scene after her battle with cancer. Great to see her back. Each actor/actress held their own in their characters and all executed their roles well. Sondheim’s songs aren’t exactly the easiest to sing and I can imagine that it’ll be easy to trip over the words. What must be the favourite comic relief duo of the night must be the princes, who triggered my friend and I (among others) into laughing whenever they appeared, especially with their rendition of “Agony”.

And wow, I was quite impressed with the props, especially the revolving tree, inspired by a very beautiful intersection of tree growth (which was shown in the programme). I so want to know where that place is…I have this thing about trees. It helped to add some “mystery” in the woods as many things can get hidden behind it. It doubled up as the tower of Rapunzel as well. I must say I liked the wooden cow Milky White too, which “played along” pretty well. Ha!

I agree with Jeremy that the lips projected in the backdrop that represented the giant was a bit out-of place but indeed, how else to do it? A drop-down prop maybe? But maybe, just a booming voice would have sufficed, or shadows? But no “fee-fi-fo-fum” though. Ha!

To sum up, it might not be as easy to follow or engage if you’re new to watching musical theatre, but I believe it’ll be a different experience altogether from the normal song and dance.

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