One of the reasons I was blown away was the pure originality. A show first debuted in the 1980’s, both the previous versions I had seen more or less echoed the successful New York run. But this version had a twist – the narrator, who anchors the multi-threaded story including Cinderella, Rapunzal, Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and more, is usually played by a middle-aged man (in the 1990 London production, it was Nicholas Parsons). Here, the role was played by a young boy, who had run away from home after an argument. As he sits in the woods, with his backpack of toys open, enacting the story, the actors appear on the stage, and it comes to life around him.
Few if any changes have been made to the script – I didn’t spot any – and yet it seems as if the story was meant to be this way. Friends who didn’t know the show were surprised to hear that the boy was a new character. The first act, where things are mostly comedic, is the boy playing; later he falls asleep, and the second, much darker act is his nightmare. How the show resolves at the end is an absolute delight, and very fitting in a show that is, on so many levels, about relationships between parents and their children.
The show is playing until September 11, and there is still a chance to book tickets before it closes. I really do recommend this musical.
A quick note to also recommend Regent’s Park Garden Cafe, where we had lunch. The front of the cafe is a fairly ordinary coffee and cakes affair (but extremely reasonable), but the restaurant to the rear does excellent lunches, and is also pretty good value.