note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Sheila Barth
Do yourself a favor. Take a walk with your family on the wild side. Go “Into the Woods,” at Lyric Stage Company. A full complement of Boston super stars, musicians, and fun lurks behind that stage door. The 2-hour,40-minute, two-act show opened May 9, and was scheduled to close June 7. However, Henry Lussier, director of marketing and public relations, said “Into the Woods” is currently breaking records as Lyric Stage’s all-time best-selling show. The demand for tickets is so great, they extended its run to June 22.
Besides Artistic Director-Director Spiro Veloudos‘ consistent keen knack of producing award-winning hits, he has gathered a topnotch cast and crew.
David Towlun’s amazingly clever set, with its cloistered stone tower for Rapunzel to let down her golden hair; a tree where Cinderella’s dear ghostly mother abides, above her gravesite; the forest, teeming with weird humans and creatures; village domiciles and the castle in the distance are buoyed by Scott Clyve’s lighting and Andrew Will’s sound effects. Johnathan Carr’s projected images ratchet up the forest’s supernatural resonance and mysticism.
Wading through this wacky maze of spirits, creatures, giants, enchanted flora, fauna, and waylaid humans is versatile Narrator Will McGarrahan, who, in the blink of an eye, transforms into a prophetic stranger.
Sondheim’s musical score for this fractured fairytale romp is hauntingly memorable and hummable, while delivering serious warnings: be careful what you wish for; children should listen to their parents; be wary of strangers, regardless of their friendly demeanor; and shed selfishness for cooperation - there’s safety in numbers,
From its lilting “Into the Woods” theme song and reprise to the Witch’s pleading “Stay With Me,” and soulful “Witch’s Lament” to her adopted daughter Rapunzel (Amanda Spinella), whom she shielded from life’s harms, every song is nicely orchestrated by Music Director Catherine Stornetta and Co. Rapunzel ignores her mother’s pleas after being cooped up for so long, becomes dazzled by a Prince (Sam Simahk) and runs off with her egotistical suitor.
Aimee Doherty as the wicked, bent-over, gnarled Witch is sheer delight. She’s comical instead of cruel. Later, when she transforms into her former bewitchingly beautiful self, Doherty’s natural loveliness shines through.
John Ambrosino as the childless, mild-mannered Baker and Witch’s next-door neighbor, and Lisa Yuen as his overtly aggressive wife make sweet music and harmony together, their chemistry, charming. Also outstanding is Maurice Emmanuel Parent in dual roles, as the sneaky, cheeky Wolf luring Red Riding Hood into his chops and Prince (not-so-)Charming, who woos and weds Cinderella.These vapid, royal brothers romp into the woods, seeking their loves, crooning, “Agony,” then reprise their lament after winning them.
Erica Spyres as fresh-faced Cinderella is a sweetly sincere foil to her ambitious, cruel stepmother,(Maureen Keiller) and stepsisters Florinda (Christina English) and Lucinda (Elise Arsenault), while Salem State University graduate Maritza Bostic as Red Riding Hood is the ideal foil to silly, simple Jack (Gregory Balla), of giant and beanstalk fame.
Beth Gotha, Arthur Waldstein, Teresa Winner Blume and Jeff Mahoney round out the cast.
BOX INFO: Two-act hit musical, by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, appearing with the Lyric Stage Company of Greater Boston, extended through June 22, at 140 Clarendon St., Boston. Performances: Wednesdays, Thursdays, at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3,8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Wednesday matinee, June 4, at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $25; seniors, $10 off; student rush tickets, $10; group rates available. Call the Box Office at 617-585-5678 or visit lyricstage.com.