Into the Woods reviews

Into the WoodsStephen Sondheim, music and lyrics; James Lapine, book

Maybe we don’t all know the tunes or the words to the lusty songs ringing out from the Elizabethan stage, but we surely do know the thread of all the stories – Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty. The Brothers Grimm all gathered under the canopy of a dark forest where it’s hard to see your way.

If you’ve ever been in the woods in the dark, you know how hard it is to see. Not so in these woods. These familiar folks provide an ongoing feast for the playgoer in the form of light-hearted fun and sprightly music. An on-stage orchestra conducted throughout by the play’s genius of a director, Amanda Dehnert, accompanies a cast of one amazing character after another. And these actors are all superb singers!

While Lapine’s first intention was to guide his new child through the labyrinth of discerning right from wrong as they wandered through the forest of life, another message emerges – the importance of listening to each other’s story. Thus must Red Riding Hood learn from Cinderella, and Jack on his beanstalk from his cow, the baker from his wife, and later, his child. Ah, there are so many lessons we have to ask, “Where there is truth, must there always be consequences?” Yes, my child, yes.

The constant presence of Sondheim’s masterful music lightens the load borne by these denizens of the dark forest and helps the rest of us hold on to the pieces of this fairy tale puzzle.

The spectacularly ugly and lovely (you’ll see) Miriam Laube’s voice as Witch is just one of many stellar ones on hear, but you’ll never forget “Lament” or “Last Midnight.

Or the entire cast singing “Children Will Listen” in multi-part harmony. And if the music doesn’t grab you, the costumes and fantastic on-stage feats will. Those wicked stepsisters have costumes to die for. And Milky White, aka Catherine E. Coulson, has udders that actually produce milk. And Howie Seago’s Wolf belly unexpectedly provides harbor for Red Riding Hood and Milky White.

And finally…

It’s all too fantastic for words, folks. Go see for yourself how these plays talk to each other (Artistic Director Bill Rauch’s goal) and especially to you.

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