My mother used to say “What you get and what you want are two different things sometimes.” Sorry, Mom. That phrase works wonders in the grocery story check out aisle filled with Hershey candy bars, but not for theater. What I want from the Reagle Music Theatre’s newest production, INTO THE WOODS, is an emotional peek into the psyches of our beloved fairytale characters. Happily, that is exactly what I get.
Act One begins with a rousing rendition of “Into the Woods” (“I Wish”) by Stephen Sondheim, by all of Reagle’s talented cast members. This song, one of Sondheim’s catchiest, bounces and skips through a gorgeously simple backdrop by set designer, Jamie Howland. Howland literally takes a page from a Grimm fairy tale (It’s “The Gingerbread Man” if you read the fine print.) and creates huge “pages” of elegant prose for this production. There are all the usual and lovable suspects from your childhood stories: Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Bean Stalk, The Baker’s Wife, and Little Red Riding Hood.
This musical is narrated by Scott Wahle, who doubles as “Mysterious Man”, and infuses a dry sense of humor that garners well-deserved laughs. Director and costume designer, Stacey Stephens, also does his part by deftly engaging clever sight gags to lighten the production’s load. One example is Jack (Gregory Isaac Stone) straining to move his beloved cow, “Whitey”. Once the prized bovine is sold to the baker’s wife (Shannon Lee Jones), she aptly moves it around like a fuzzy piece of luggage. It’s funny and it works because it balances the gravity of Act Two coming up. Fairytales are much more than skin deep the way Sondheim and James Lapine create them. There are layers and layers of psychological drama. Sondheim is a master at this and does not disappoint. A perfect example is the complex relationship between Rapunzel (Krista Buccellato) and her mother and resident witch, superbly portrayed by Broadway’s own Rachel York. The witch imprisons her daughter in a high tower to protect her from the outside world. Yet, the old croon can not lock out the power of young love. When the handsome prince (Brennan Roach) finds his fair maiden, Rapunzel longs to be with him. But the witch soon applies her emotional blackmail to the girl like cheap fly paper. “Don’t you love me? You’d stay with me if you did.” What child hasn’t been torn between wanting to please his/her parent while trying to find autonomy? For that matter, who hasn’t called their mother a witch at one time or another? Ah, but I digress!
Act Two continues on with the consequences of all the various wishes granted. Some happy….some well, not so much. Remember Cinderella (McCaela Donovan) and her handsome Prince (Ayal Miodovnik)? Or Rapunzel and her rescuer? Domestic bliss? Hardly. A hilarious song named “Agony” sung by the princes sums up married life nicely. Torturously bored, it seems these royals are moving on to greener pastures by the name of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Of course, a giant woman rampaging the countryside who kills a few of the main characters also adds to the excitement. Although Act Two could be paced a little faster, all of the acting is first rate. The lesson here is clear though. Be careful what you wish for.
You can still get INTO THE WOODS until June 27th.