May 9, 2016  //  By:   //  Opera/Dance, Reviews  //  Comments are off


First things first — don’t be fooled by the title. Into the Hoods: Remixed may remind you of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, but ZooNation have ‘remixed’ the story for a modern, younger audience. Perhaps modernised it too much.

Telling the story of two lost children, representing the Baker and his wife, they find themselves in the ‘Ruff Kidz Estate,’ where they meet the Landlord of a tower block. In exchange for money, he asks the children to find him four items for his daughter, Rap-on-Zel’s, eighteen birthday: an iPhone as white as milk, a hoodie as red as blood, weave as yellow as corn, and trainers as pure as gold. It’s important to say that this is primarily a dance show and the routines are the main bulk of the show. Because of this, the storyline is very loose with many complications throughout and a lack of character development from all. Whilst the choreography may be near faultless, there could have been more effort put into the plot. And I might be saying that as I am a real admirer of Sondheim’s work.

As mentioned, however, the energy of the choreography and entire ensemble is sublime. What becomes a huge appeal when watching is the range of the dancers in age, height, ethnicity and professional background. Someone like Annie Edwards as Fairy G, for instance, may stand out in her height yet her enthusiasm and high characterisation was some of the best seen on stage. Jade Hackett as Rap-on-Zel was also very humorous to watch at times, particularly in her solos and moving as if she was recreating one of Beyoncé’s music videos. The stunning animations from Jake Cuddihy and Phoebe Halstead also helps drive the production’s energy forward.

Nonetheless, whilst the choreography may be consistently slick, because it never stops and the dancers never really have a chance to pause, it lacks any key memorable moments to think of once the performance finished. Each routine seamlessly transitions from one to the other, yet the fault of this is that none of the routines have any distinctiveness between them. What might have helped is if there were more lyrical sections, such as Lil’ Red’s introductory routine, which was a particular highlight of mine. The upside of the choreography, though, is that the music constantly changes, turning the show into a real celebration of the music of street-dance, playing both modern songs from this decade as well as old-school classics from the likes of Whitney Houston and James Brown. You can’t help but be swept up and enjoy the nostalgia of the show’s soundtrack.

As a dance show, ZooNation have come up with a fun, high energy production with a seriously feel good soundtrack. However, with the show becoming tiresome in its storyline, as well as it being in its tenth year, perhaps its time for the group to find a new show to explore with and take the West End by storm again.

Reviewed by Barry O’Reilly

Into The Hoods: Remixed is playing at The Peacock Theatre until 21 May