Review: Do Not Leave at Intermission of 'Into the Woods'
The story of Stephen Sondheim's "Into The Woods" only appears to be over at end of the first act of this farcical and entertaining mash-up made from four Brothers Grimm fairy tales. While everyone is about to live happily ever after, Act I is really a foreshadowing of the pay-back set forth Act II.
Bring your mind as well as your sense of humor to Barrington Stage's fine production of this musical theater classic.
As the show begins, The Baker (Jonathan Raviv) and his Wife (Mara Davi) are on a quest. They desperately want a child but are unable to conceive. The Witch (Mykal Kilgore) has cursed them, and to undo it, she demands four items: a cow as white as milk from Jack, of Beanstalk fame (Clay Singer) and his mother (Leslie Becker); a cape as red as blood from Little Red Riding Hood (Dorcas Leung); hair as yellow as corn from Rapunzel (Anna Tobin); and a slipper as pure as gold from Cinderella (Amanda Robles).
You already know the story of these famous characters’ lives: Jack plants his beans and slays the giant at the top of the beanstalk. Little Red Riding Hood and her Grannie kill the wolf. Cinderella defies her stepmother and stepsisters (Sarah Dacey Charles, Megan Orticelli and Zoë Aarts, respectively), goes to the ball and falls in love with the prince (Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton). Rapunzel falls in love with her prince, too (Pepe Nufrio). After many adventures in search of their four items, The Baker and his Wife present them to the Witch, and they soon have a baby.
But the characters have paid dearly for fulfilling their dreams. In Act II, the Giant's Wife (Leslie Becker’s voice) reins terror on the little community. She kills Rapunzel's mother and Jack's mother, too. The Prince cheats on Cinderella with The Baker's Wife. (When confronted, he tells Cinderella, "I was raised to be charming, not sincere." That has to be one of the theater's great lines!) The morals are many: Be careful what you wish for; don't squander your life; when you go into the woods – the scary unknown that is often life itself – you can't know what will happen.
The actors are uniformly excellent. It is not possible to single out any one performer for special praise or condemnation.
James Lapine's book is a marvel, intertwining the stories of characters we know and care for. Stephen Sondheim's score – difficult to play and sing – is, arguably, his last truly accessible musical. From the first three notes of the score, you know tell this is Sondheim. Be sure to pay careful attention to his amazing lyrics as well. They tell the story and as always astonish you with their brilliance.
The scenic design, by Brian Prather, is made up of different-shaped frames that at first encase each of the fairy-tale families. They then become part of the forest, both providing shelter and obstacle. The costumes by Jen Caprio are delightful, especially those of the wicked stepmother and stepsisters. Sherrice Mojgani’s lighting design clearly tells us where we are and what to feel. Brandon Hardy's hollow, white cow puppet is very inventive and lifelike even though we could clearly see it being operated by Jack and others. Special kudos to Matt Kraus's sound design. The voice of the Giant's Wife comes from up high to haunt us. Her footfalls as she walks shake the theater. They are truly scary.
Darren R. Cohen directed the nine-piece orchestra. Mayte Natalio choreographed the few dances. And Joe Calarco, who also directed "Ragtime" at BSC, another multi-character musical, ingeniously pulled this complicated production together.
"Into The Woods" isn't just a musical to be seen. It is to be experienced and thought about for days after. Bravos once again to our Berkshire treasure, the Barrington Stage Company.
Performances run through July 13. Call 413-236-8888 or visit barringtonstageco.org.
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by James Lapine; Directed by Joe Calarco; Musical Direction by Darren R. Cohen; Choreographed by Mayte Natalio; Scenic Design by Brian Prather; Costume Design by Jen Caprio; Lighting Design by Sherrice Mojgani; Puppit Design by Brandon Hardy.
With Zoë Aarts, Leslie Becker, James Cella, Sarah Dacey Charles, Mara Davi, Mykal Kilgore, Dorcas Leung, Pepe Nufrio, Megan Orticelli, Jonathan Raviv, Amanda Robles, Thom Sesma, Clay Singer, Anna Tobin and Kevein Toniazzo-Naughton.
Tags: Barrington Stage, theater,