note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
Stephen Sondheim’s deliciously perverse INTO THE WOODS is being given a sparkling production by the F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company (alas, through this weekend only) at the Regent Theater in Arlington. Sondheim and James Lapine’s clever retelling of some grim (Aren’t they all?) fairytales weaves together the stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstock and more… for a modern, sardonic take on the naïve 19th century notion of “happily ever after.”
If you haven’t heard of the F.U.D.G.E. Company, you soon will, because they can’t keep this news under their hats for long: Tickets to this non-equity, but nevertheless professionally mounted musical are $10-15. That’s with an orchestra!
Some of the singers are conservatory students--- That means they’ve got the chops. Some come from Emerson, M.I.T. or other local companies---and they all perform with poise and charm---and they all master Sondheim’s extremely difficult music.
I can’t help it. The wolf is always my favorite character in INTO THE WOODS and F.U.D.G.E.’s Matthew Stern doesn’t disappoint. He’s a suave, debonair and dangerous beast. No wonder Little Red (a spunky Kacee Staiti) is intrigued. After the wolf is dispatched (Such a travesty!), Stern comes back as the vacuous prince who dogs Cinderella’s footsteps, and then, once he wins her (the delightful AnneMarie Alvarez), leaves her high and dry. (Now you always knew he would, didn’t you?)
Stern is hilarious and dashing, all at the same time, not an easy task for a prince. Stern and his royal, equally self-absorbed brother (Steven Dyer) have one of the show’s best duets and lucky for us, they have it twice! Also quite wonderful are Ursina Amsler and Ian Flynn as the Baker and his Wife. Richard Hoehn is the sweetest of giant-killers and SiouxSanna Ramirez-Crux the very best of fussing mothers. Lindsay Hurley is a spectacular witch and Melody Chapin a fine comedienne.
There isn’t a bad performance in the lot. Director Joe DeMita keeps the action hopping and music director Jason Whiting gets fine singing from the entire cast. Bless their hearts, no one wore a mic (Hooray!) but this meant that, at my performance anyway, sometimes it was hard to hear---a small price to pay for honest vocal power.
Watch for future F.U.D.G.E. productions. Rumor has it they’re flying into the Piano Factory this fall with BAT BOY: The Musical. Don’t miss out.