Theatre Mirror Reviews - "INTO THE WOODS"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Dean College's School for the Arts is "Into The Woods", a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine. It premiered on Broadway on November 5, 1987 and ran for 764 performances, starring Bernadette Peters as the Witch and Joanna Gleason as the Baker's wife. In Sondheim and Lapine's fractured fairy tale musical, a baker and his wife embark on a quest to reverse a curse put on them by the witch next door. Along the way they encounter an ambivalent Cinderella, an aggressive Red Riding Hood, a rebellious Rapunzel, a too-trusting Jack, and a pair of not-so-princely Princes. But when everyone's wishes are granted their self centered actions come back to haunt them. Eventually they learn a poignant lesson about working together, the stories we tell children and the real meaning of "happily ever after." Director/choreographer Jim Beauregard infuses new life into this musical with his keen insight while topnotch musical direction is supplied by Susan Alves who taught the talented 30 member cast the intricate Sondheim score and conducts a seven piece orchestra. Their combined efforts produce a strong musical with the first Act being light and fluffy while the second reaches out and grabs you with its poignancy and power. A standing ovation is their reward on a job very well done.

Jim not only directs the show splendidly but block and stages the numbers beautifully, too. He obtains the comedy and pathos necessary for each scene. Susan brings out the best vocals in these student performers. The scenic design by Michael Duarte is terrific as are the multitude of gorgeous costumes by Daniel Kozar. The main character who runs in and out of the Cinderella, Jack in the beanstalk and the baker and his wife scenes is the Witch marvelously played with high energy by Alexandria Hassan. She brings a lot of depth to the role, changing from old hag to young beauty in the blink of an eye. Her first number is about the vegetables the Baker's father stole from her garden. Alexandria handles the tongue twisting lyrics with ease, annunciating every one of them clearly. The Witch only shows warmth to her adopted or rather stolen daughter Rapunzel. songs include "Stay With Me" where she wants her daughter to remain trapped in the tower and in "Witch's Lament" after the giant kills her daughter. However it is her eleventh hour number which stops the show with power and punch called "The Last Midnight" with her stirring rendition that doesn't leave a dry eye in the theatre. Alexandria delivers a tour-de-force performance in this role.

Zackery Carme and Isabelle Franco as the Baker and the Baker's wife perform many comic bits in the first act but the power and depth of their acting comes through in the dramatic ones in the second act. They must hunt for four things to break the witch's spell including a white cow. They have many other clever antics to enliven the proceedings and have great chemistry with each other. Zackery has a strong tenor voice and his emotion packed songs are the duet with his father called "No More" and "No One is Alone" quartet. Isabelle's most poignant number is "Moments in the Woods" after her tryst with Cinderella's Prince. The audience is left in tears after their heartfelt renditions of them. They have wonderful chemistry together.

Playing the role of Cinderella is Casey McManus who has a strong soprano voice. The character wants to go to a ball throne by the King. Her voice soars in many numbers but is most impressive in "No One is Alone" when she comforts Red Riding Hood, saying her mother and grandmother's spirits will be with her forever. Casey's interactions with the other performers is excellent. Red Riding Hood is well played by Sierra Key. She buys bread and sweets from the Baker for her granny but devours them before she reaches her house. Her encounter with the Wolf enlightens her in "I Know Now". She becomes more blood thirsty after she and Granny skin the Wolf. Red Riding Hood carries a knife with her for the rest of the show and learns you must be careful what you wish for. Matthew Speed plays the dimwitted Jack, wonderfully. His comic quips and sayings are hilarious including " I have a cow and a harp for a friend now." Jack sells his beloved cow, Milky White for the magic beans. Matthew displays his tenor voice in the group numbers and in his solos "I Guess this is Goodbye" when he sells Milky White and in "Giants in the Sky" when he learns you shouldn't steal from others because there will be consequences to your actions. shows great depth in this role.

Sasha Ernst, Ricci Mann and Delenn Martin do a wonderful job as the narrators of the show. Bryant Vasquez plays the mysterious man who is hiding a secret from the Baker and the audience, too. Tyler Marchegiani as Cinderella's Prince and Shaun DeOliveira as Rapunzel's Prince are hilarious as these siblings. They stop the show with the comic "Agony" which is my favorite song in the show. In the first act, they are suffering because they can't get the girl and in the second act is from being married to these very same women. Their acting as these pompous brothers is topnotch and they exclaim "Royalty just can't make up its mind." Ethan Kraus plays the comic Wolf who sings "Hello, Little Girl" as he stalks Red in the woods. Pretty blonde, Jessica Luhmann plays Rapunzel who is trapped in the high tower, She displays her strong soprano voice during the show. I last reviewed her as Kim in "Bye Bye Birdie" at Dean last year. Briana Bronzetti is a hoot as Jack's cantankerous mother. Some of her laugh out loud moments occur when she is constantly yelling at Jack for being stupid or yelling at the female giant after the demise of her husband. I also reviewed her as Mrs. Macafee last year. So for an excellent version of this difficult Sondheim musical, be sure to catch "Into the Woods" at Dean College. Tell them Tony sent you.

INTO THE WOODS ( 15 to 20 November)
Dean College, School for the Arts,109 West Central Street, Franklin, MA
1(508)541-1605 or

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