Into the Hoods

Created by Kate Price and ZooNation

Royal Festival Hall

To 15 August 2010

Review by Howard Loxton

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First seen in 2006 and further developed in 2008 for its first West End run and, after a Christmas season at this venue, it is back again as lively as ever.

Just in case you don't know, this is a non-stop street dance show that takes the Grimm's Tales story line of the Sondheim-Lapine Into the Woods and transfers it to a London housing estate.

The (neighbour)hood in this case is Ruff Endz where DJ Spinderella (Sarah Richards), rapper MC Rap-on-Zel (Rhonda Humphrey), Prince (Roger Davies) the Lothario who's dating both of them, singer Lil Red (Tasha Gooden), record company boss the Wolf (Dre Oporio) and music producer Jaxx all live in the same tower block. There's also Spinderella's stepmom and two stepsisters (Rowen Hawkins, Robert Anker and Jeff Felicisimo hilariously in drag), the Landlord (Frank Wilson) to whom Jaxx owes rent and the Giant (Feliisimo again) who lives up in the penthouse.

Into this setting come two small children, seeking the big wide world and then getting lost (Akai Oei, February's winner of Sky TV's Got to Dance, and Lauren Halil) who have to find four special objects to earn their bus fares home, and diminutive Annie Edwards as the gold-clad Fairy Gee who helps Spinderella gain her heart's desire: to DJ at the ball.

There is just enough interacting story line and character drawing to give the show dramatic shape and make it more than just a hip-hop dance fest - great though that could be. Borrowed moves from a wide range of dance styles from jazz dance to capoeira, jive to ballet, add depth to characterisation and aid more lyrical moments and it is performed by a stunning cast. Both principles and ensemble are all staggeringly good dancers with their own specialities and they exude not just energy but a sense of joy in what they are doing..

It is performed to a fantastic sound mix (supervised by DJ Walde) incorporating music that ranges from Stevie Wonder to Gorillaz, Massive Attack, Prince, Dizzie Rascal, Kanye West, Black-eyed Peas and the Chemical Brothers. The show is staged against a fantastic projected animation that is like a graphic novel brought to life and is cleverly integrated with the live action. It's lively and it's loud, though no louder than most musicals these days, and the sound quality is excellent except for Josh Cohen's story-telling narration. His rich voice deserves better treatment.

This life enhancing show is full of imaginative touches such as dancers becoming the record decks on which Spinderella spins her stuff, or trees that Wolf's henchmen hide behind when he waylays Lil Red in a park, a wedding banquet turning into a bridal bed or the whole scene turning 45 degrees so that Prince can climb Rap-on-Zel's hair along the horizontal. It carries the audience with it and sometimes carries itself into the audience. I loved it.