Presented by Adelaide Youth Theatre
Reviewed 11 March 2016
Into The Woods JR is an adaptation of one of Stephen Sondheim’s most popular works designed especially for young performers. The full show is also being produced by Adelaide Youth Theatre, with a more senior cast. That season runs concurrently.
The musical centres on a baker and his wife who wish to have a child; and includes many familiar fairy tale characters including Jack (and the Beanstalk), Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and many more. When the baker and his wife learn that they cannot have a child because of a witch’s curse, the two set off on a journey to break the curse. Most of the scarier themes are removed in this abridged version of the show and we are left with a clever, funny script with a ‘happy ever after’ ending more suited to child performers and audience than the senior counterpart.
Director Fiona DeLaine begins the show in a classroom setting before we are transported ‘Into the Woods’. Although this concept is effective at the start and end of the show, the presence of some of the school desks on stage throughout the performance is distracting and unnecessary. DeLaine draws great performances from her young cast of 8-16 year olds. Jayden Prelc as the Baker elicits both compassion and humour in his bumbling search for the ingredients. He has the perfect mix of vulnerability and determination as he goes about his task. Gemma Dandie demonstrates her great acting prowess with an evil and cunning portrayal of the Witch. Zara Blight is the show stealer with an energetic performance as Little Red. She has consistently wonderful facial expression, something some of the older cast members would do well to replicate.
The two Princes, Sebastien Skubala and Jack Raftopolous were delightfully flamboyant. Their song Agony was a comic highlight of the show.
Musically, the sophisticated score has been adapted to make it easier for young performers but it is still challenging and under the direction of Musical Directors Mark DeLaine and Ben Francis, the performers cope admirably with the complex lyrics. Angus Brill Reed sang a powerful rendition of Giants in the Sky, much appreciated by the enthusiastic audience. Isabelle Oppedisano sang beautifully in her role as the Baker’s wife and I only wish we got to hear more of that particular voice.
The difficulty intrinsic with junior shows is that characters are left underdeveloped and provide little opportunity for the actors to demonstrate their skills. Cinderella’s sisters Ella Waters and Montana Vincent, in addition to her wicked stepmother Emily Glew, although played very well, are examples of characters that are prevented from evolving in the condensed script.
Adelaide Youth Theatre has once again been successful in producing an entertaining piece of theatre whist giving emerging artists the opportunity to practice their craft in the exciting Fringe arena.
Reviewed by Trish Francis
Rating (out of 5): 3.5
Venue: Star Theatre One
Season: Until 12 March 2016
Duration: 1 hour
Tickets: $20 – $33
Bookings: Book through FringeTix online or at a FringeTix box office (booking fees apply)