Preview: Into the Woods by SUSU Showstoppers

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The wildly talented SUSU Showstoppers are going to continue their strong streak this year by bringing to the Annex Theatre one of Stephen Sondheim’s most famous musicals, Into the Woods. I was lucky enough to attend an early rehearsal, where I was completely blown away by the sheer talent of every single member of the cast. With so many strong performers it’s hard at this point to figure out just who will steal the show. So far my money is on the wonderful Cinderella, portrayed by Emma Bryant or perhaps the widely charming relationship between the Baker (Paddy Cahill) and his Wife (Robyn Fryer) who is as funny as she as brilliant. Though undoubtedly the Witch (Lydia Edge) may make a last minute play for the spotlight.

Performances are taking place at 7:30pm from the 22nd to the 25th April, and this show is one not to be missed. If you do, you may just be missing the student theatre show of the year.

I chatted to directors, Josh Cox and Ruthie Pinion, to find out more about the show.

What made you want to take on Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical?

Josh: Sondheim writes some of the best musicals and Into the Woods is probably one of his best! It also tied in really nicely with the release of the film, it has a lot of buzz around it at the moment and is a great way to get people who wouldn’t normally see musical theatre in to the theatre! Also, who hasn’t dreamt of being their favourite fairytale character? Into the Woods comes across as being a comedy style musical, but on top of this it also has some serious themes to think about and it made the rehearsal process that little bit more fun! 

What makes Into the Woods so special to you?

Ruthie: Into the Woods is so special to me because at the heart of it, it’s a very complex tale about morality explained through the characters and stories of our childhood. We’ve often joked in rehearsal about all of the levels of the piece itself but it’s true! On the surface of it, Into The Woods is a pretty show with lots of lovely songs and a generally moving plot, but when you start really looking at it the picture becomes a lot bigger and poses some very interesting questions and really makes you think. The first act is for kids, the second is for adults and that’s what I really love about it.

What do you feel are the physical limitations for a student theatre group taking on a musical with such a large cast? 

Josh: We’ve been quite lucky that this isn’t the biggest cast we’ve had to fit in The Annex, but the size of the performance space and sight lines in The Annex can be a tad difficult to work with. It means you have to come up with some inventive ways to maximise the space. StageSoc are fantastic at helping your ideas come to life on stage, we’d never be able to do any of the things we want without them. Into the Woods is definitely not written for a venue like the Annex but we’ve come up with something we hope you’ll like! 

What for you was most important when staging Into The Woods

Ruthie: With a cast as talented and strong as ours, we really wanted to bring out the nuances of the piece. We spent a lot of time looking at the similarities in songs and the connotations of sections of dialogue to really highlight the themes of the show. We focussed on working with the Narrator (Jamie Martin) to bring him out of the main story but also keep him linked to the action on stage, and worked a lot on creating cohesion between the acts when they’re set quite far apart.

Finally, can you sum up your production of Into the Woods in a few words for us? 

Josh: Into the Woods is a dark, funny, interesting twist on all your favourite childhood fairytales and is something no one should miss! 

Into the Woods will be at the Annex Theatre from the 22nd of April to the 25th. Tickets can be reserved here.

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BA English student at University of Southampton and Editor for The Edge (2015-16). A deep love of reading, theatre and all things entertainment.

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