Arriving at the Peacock Theatre last night, I noticed a few things. Firstly there were a lot of children in the audience and secondly, there were way too many baseball caps being worn at various angles by young and old alike. As the Victor Meldrew in me started to rise, I picked up my ticket for Into the Hoods: Remixed and was told it was a hip-hop dance show with a running time of around two and half hours. Oh this evening had everything going for it at this point. Things weren’t improved when the lights went down and the familiar warning about use of mobile phones came over the speakers followed by the words, and I quote, “This is theatre but this is hip-hop theatre so feel free to make as much noise as you like!”
Based on Stephen Sondheim show Into the Woods, this tale is the story of two children (Tyreese Remy-Henderson and Jenai Mason-Smith who run away from school and end up in the wrong part of town – on the ‘Ruff Endz Estate in fact – where the landlord of Beanstalk Towers (Andry Oporia) sets them a mission to obtain various presents – an iPhone as white as milk, trainers as pure as gold, a hoodie as red as blood and some weave as yellow as corn – for his daughter’s eighteenth birthday. Before setting out on their quest, the children get to meet the other inhabitants of the building. There is downtrodden DJ Spinderella (Lucinda Wessels) who lives with her evil stepmother (Andry Oporia) and ugly stepsisters (Idney De’Almeida and Lindon Barr), Lil Red (Natasha Gooden) a wannabe singer, with a grandmother in the hippest nursing home ever, budding music producer Jaxx (Corey Culverwell), ‘D’ list reality-TV celebrity Prince (Daryl Baker), The penthouse dwelling Giant (Lindon Barr), the wily Manager of Big Teef Records, Wolf (Duwane Taylor) and finally the landlord’s daughter rapper Rap On Zel (Jade Hackett). This mixed bag of characters all have what the children want but will they be able to get everything themselves or will they need help from people such as Fairy Gee (Annie Edwards) in order to get their happily ever after?
So, the lights went down and the vast video projection of a bookshelf came to life opening on our particular tale. The Narrator (Josh Cohen) said those immortal words “once upon a time……” and I, along with the entire audience, was completely hooked. What an amazing show Into the Hoods: Remixed really is and I loved every minute. The songs, surprisingly, covered virtually every musical genre – indeed I was singing along to a couple of the songs as they played – and the dancing was simply spectacular. This really was modern dance at its absolute finest. Each dance added something to the narrative and gave us an insight into the character and situation that we were watching in a way that pages of script never could. Director/Writer Kate Prince managed to keep the essence of each individual fairy tale and not only bring them fully up to date but find lovely ways of linking them together to make one very coherent story that made sense and never lost anyone on the way.
The dancing was amazing, demanding much from the cast. Fast, frenetic, athletic, as you would expect from hip-hop, but also lyrical, emotional and expressive where – like with classical ballet – every look and movement means something and assists with the story telling. I have to say that after two and half hours I was exhausted from watching, so heaven knows how the dancers felt, but it was really obvious that they were loving their chosen profession and the audience responded positively to their enthusiasm – from where I sat, it looked like virtually everyone was on their feet at the end.
So, by the end of the performance, how was I feeling? Truth be told, I had completely forgotten all my original fears about the show. I was on my feet, cheering with everyone else and with a smile on my face that is still there as I write this piece this morning. Talking about it with my housemate this morning, I had to admit that I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed the show. I’m not saying that I will be binning my collection of songs from the musicals and downloading the latest from Wiz Khalifa, Tyga and Meek Mill but, thanks to the magic of Into the Hoods: Remixed, I will be giving Hip-hop a lot more respect from now on.
Into the Hoods: Remixed is at The Peacock Theatre until mid-November and then touring in 2016. I would recommend that no matter what your age or musical tastes, throw away everything you think you know about hip-hop, get a ticket and go enjoy a really awesome night with the inhabitants of Beanstalk Towers and their friends.
Review by Terry Eastham
Zoo Nation: Into the Hoods
Set in the ‘Ruff Endz Estate’, the story follows two lost school children who have been tasked to find an iPod touch as white as milk, trainers as pure as gold, a hoodie as red as blood and some weave as yellow as corn.
Along the way, they meet DJ Spinderella, wannabe singer Lil Red, vivacious rapper Rap On Zel, budding music producer Jaxx and a whole world of surprises! Set in the ‘Ruff Endz Estate’, the story follows two lost school children who have been tasked to find an iPod touch as white as milk, trainers as pure as gold, a hoodie as red as blood and some weave as yellow as corn.
Into The Hoods: Remixed features music from James Brown, Queen Latifah, Jay Z, Jennifer Hudson, Kool + The Gang, Salt n Pepa, Chemical Brothers, Kano, MC Hammer and new original work from Danilo ‘DJ’ Walde (Some Like it Hip Hop, The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party). The newly revamped show is once again directed and written by Kate Prince and features an updated creative team with musical direction by Danilo ‘DJ’ Walde, set design by Ben Stones, video design by Andrzej Goulding, costume design by Ben Stones and Russell Royer and lighting design by Andy Murrell. The production also features Carrie-Anne Ingrouille as associate director, Rowen Hawkins as associate choreographer. The full choreographic team includes Rowen Hawkins, Kendra Horsburgh, Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, Rhimes LeCointe, Shaun Niles, Kate Prince, Kenrick Sandy, and Mikey Ureta.
The 2015 cast features Some Like it Hip Hop stars Natasha Gooden as Lil Red and Duwane Taylor as Wolf. The cast also features Corey Culverwell and Mikey Ureta, former members of ZooNation Youth Company and Groove on Down the Road, who were finalists on Britain’s Got Talent with their crew BoyBand. They will be playing the roles of Jaxx and the Giant. Newcomers to ZooNation include Jade Hackett as RapOnZel, Daryl Baker as Prince and Dutch dancer Lucinda Wessels as Spinderella.
Into the Hoods: Remixed
The Peacock Theatre
Portugal Street, London, WC2A 2HT
Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Show Opened: 23rd October 2015
Booking Until: 14th November 2015