Friday, March 28, 2008

Into The Hoods is an incredibly imaginative and wonderfully choreographed hip hop adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Into The Woods. The urban dance extravaganza is the brainchild of Katie Prince, the founder of dance agency ZooNation. Into the Hoods was first staged at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2006 and sold out every show for its two runs at the Festival.

Two kids playing truant from school take the place of the baker and his wife from the original story. The kids find themselves lost in the hood and end up in a grotty, ghetto estate called Ruff Endz. The evil landlord (instead of the witch) tells the children he will send them home if they are able to get him four items including "an ipod as white as milk". Also living on the estate are Spinderella, a beautiful, put-upon DJ, blonde MC Rap-On-Zel, hoodie-clad R&B singer Lil' Red, two-timing D-List celebrity Prince, a producer who lives in the basement called Jaxx and a drug-dealing Giant who lives in the penthouse. It is, as you may have guessed by now, an urban fairy tale.

The show was excellent overall; everything from the technical ability of the dancers to the choreography to the well-chosen soundtrack to the imaginative use of props and scenery (which in some cases, consisted of dancers) was incredible. The video wall at the back of the stage was used rather innovatively to great effect, and is best illustrated by the scene when Spinderella goes to the ball.

To me, the most memorable scenes were:
  • Spinderella and Prince at the ball, breaking into a lindy hop which pleasantly surprised me (although the nitpicking part of me felt it could have been done better, but, to be fair, this is not their field of expertise, after all)
  • The old folks' home just before Lil' Red arrives to visit her grandmother. Let's just say that in the course of two dance shoes, I have now seen hilariously unusual breakdance battles.
  • Jaxx and the Giant duking it out. Props, choreography, comedic elements and even special effects were all used here to great effect.

While all of the dancers are greatly skilled, as evidenced by the resumes of the various cast members, I just have to praise Teneisha Bonner, who plays Spinderella, and who was outstanding. Halfway through the show, I realised Teneisha also played Nurse Ratched in Insane in the Brain, which I saw just two weeks ago. Then, I was in awe of the strength of her dancing. Her moves were sharp, controlled and powerful. It looked as if she was dancing in a rather masculine style, which tends to be quite unusual for females. In Into the Hoods, while there are some scenes which showed off her upper body strength (again, uncommon in female dancers), she also gets to showcase the sexiness and slinkiness that make female dancers so appealing to watch. Once again, Teneisha has left me in awe.

Other dancers who stood out are Rowen Hawkins, who plays Jaxx, and the little girl who plays Fairy Gee (for Godmother). The first time we see Jaxx in the show, he does some incredible dance moves on his hands for quite some time. Quite simply, mindblowingly awesome. As for Fairy Gee... some of the moves she does are fantastic, made even more so by the fact that she's just a little girl.

The show runs for about two hours, including the warm-up act by comedy rap poet Mr. Gee. There isn't an interval, but I hardly noticed time passing given how much I was enjoying myself. As with Insane in the Brain, I highly highly recommend that you go catch this while you can.

Into The Hoods runs at the Novello Theatre until May 10, 2008.

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