Review: Into The Woods at His Majesty’s Theatre

Into the Woods at His Majesty's Theatre
Friday, March 24, 2023


WA Opera’s latest presentation, Into The Woods, is a magical affair. Asking what exists beyond “happily ever after”, the 1987 musical from Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and James Lapine (book) fuses a bevy of fairy tale characters into the same metaverse, re-imagining their lives as if they were lived in reality.

This production, which was first performed by Northern Ireland Opera in 2022, is expertly recreated for Perth audiences with NI Opera's creative director, Cameron Menzies once again at the helm. Menzies has brought the same creative team that worked on the NI Opera production to Perth, with the work of set and costume designer Niall McKeever a particular standout.

Prudence Sanders as Rapunzel and Maria Meredes as the Witch

McKeever's costuming is stylistically modern while the stage’s centrepiece is a 30ft high wreath of felled timber in concentric circles that, through its size and Celtic design, carries an imposing otherworldliness, perfectly embodying the dark and foreboding world of the woods.

On the musical front, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra players are more than equal to the visiting creative team, as are the splendid Australian ensemble cast. A particular standout from the show is Nicole Youl who showcases her operatic range and quick-wit in her role as the down-trodden character of Jack's mother.

Equally hilarious are Lachlann Lawton and Joshua Firman as the Princes, who give just the right level of shtick to their performance, especially in the show's most humorous number, Tragedy.

The drivers of the show’s narrative, the childless baker (James Millar) and his wife (Samantha Clarke), are both fantastic in their roles; Millar expressing his characters’ dramatic shifts in mood with aplomb while Clarke’s comic-timing is second-to-none and her vocals are a delight.

Sophia Wasley as Little Red Ridinghood

The Witch (Maria Mercedes) and Narrator (Peter Coleman-Wright) bookend the narrative with commanding performances. Mercedes' performance of Last Midnight was particularly spellbinding.

And then there’s the many familiar faces from the fairy tale metaverse. Sophia Wasley is an absolute gem in her role as the rambunctious Little Red Riding Hood, as is Claire Lyon, whose rendition of On The Steps of the Palace was an absolute show stopper, while recent WAAPA graduate Matt Hourigan shines on his operatic debut as the absent-minded Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk fame).

An absolute triumph, this Menzies' production revels in the text's darkly comic elements while exalting its exhilarating musical moments with a subtle yet proud professional slickness. Even if no one does in fact live happily ever after, audiences will no doubt be left happy after this performance.


Photos by West Beach Studio

Cast of Into the Woods