Into the Woods

Previewed 15 September 1990, Opened 25 September 1990, Closed 23 February 1991 at the Phoenix Theatre in London

The Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods in London starring Julia McKenzie and directed by Richard Jones.

The cast for Into The Woods in London stars Julia McKenzie as 'The Witch' and Nicholas Parsons as 'The Narrator' along with Imelda Staunton as 'The Baker's Wife', Patsy Rowlands as 'Jack's Mother' and Jacqueline Dankworth as 'Cinderella'. The production is directed by Richard Jones with choreography by Anthony Van Laast, set designs by Richard Hudson, costumes by Sue Blane, lighting by Pat Collins and sound by Andrew Bruce. Stephen Sondheim's West End credits include Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Merrily We Roll Along, Gypsy, Pacific Overtures, Saturday Night, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, West Side Story and the compilation show Side by Side by Sondheim.

"Man's greatest fears and fantasies can be found in the fairy-tale, which is why the latter makes such a fascinating subject for Stephen Sondheim's latest musical. Even that suave old smoothie chops Nicholas Parsons as the narrator doesn't break the magic spell in Richard Jones' inventive production. After all those years of hosting TV game shows, his unctuous drawl is perfect for lulling us into a false sense of security. For this is the dark side of the fairy story that tells us what really happens after the happy-ending, all strikingly offset by Richard Hudson's gothic expressionist designs... At its simplest level, this is an adult pantomime that becomes a morality game of Consequences when characters from different fairy stories collide in a mythological wood between their worlds... This is such stuff as dreams and nightmares are made of and a wonderful parody of the Christmas panto." The Daily Express

"Two thing instantly strike me about the ravishing production of Into The Woods at the Phoenix Theatre. The first is that the show betrays the hallmark of a classic in that it can bear different interpretations... But the even more intriguing point is the way Stephen Sondheim as composer-lyricist and James Lapine as librettist are pushing the musical in new directions... In Into The Woods they are not just dramatising fairy tales but raising ethical questions... The evening's triumph belongs also to director Richard Jones, set designer Richard Hudson and costume designer Sue Blane who evoke exactly the right mood of haunted theatricality... Julia McKenzie is brilliant as the pointy-profiles, green-fingered Witch who articulates the dangers of having your wishes fulfilled but she never takes over the whole show. There is equally good work from Ian Bartholomew and Imdela Staunton as the Baker and his self-seeking Wife, from Tessa Burbridge as a gap-toothed brat of a Little Red Riding Hood and from Clive Carter doubling as the child-abusing Wolf and Cinderella's romantically agonising Prince." The Guardian

"Stephen Sondheim's music bustles sardonically along, once or twice soaring into something hummable. His smart, sly lyrics leave everyone else's sounding as if they had lead in their verbal boots... The characters have their adventures, fulfil their quests, and then, after the interval, begin the arduous task of living happily ever after. Sondheim being Sondheim, this means that Rapunzel turns psychotic, the Baker wrangles with his wife, and both princes launch into an ironic reprise of the best song in the show, 'Agony'. Having attained the seemingly unattainable, they now yearn for the even less attainable: Snow White and the Sleeping Beauty... About this time it becomes clear that not only the characters are lost in the woods. Sondheim, too, is muddling along... By now the cackling Julia McKenzie has disappeared, transformed into a svelte trouper in a spangled dress. So has Nicholas Parsons, an inexplicably underused narrator. So has the funny Imelda Staunton and several others, leaving the show's confusions of tone and aim sadly exposed. What began with so much satiric promise ends in well-meant banality: a pity." The Times

Into the Woods in London at the Phoenix Theatre previewed from 15 September 1990, opened on 25 September 1990 and closed on 23 February 1991