note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
Almost everyone seems to be stomping into the woods these days, either for summer nature activities or theatrically. If you missed The Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s awesome production of “Into the Woods,” starring Broadway star Rachel York and Boston newcaster Scott Wahle, Salem State College’s (SSC) professional Summer Theatre has its own version of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical fractured fairy tale; and Assistant Professor Peter Zachari has returned from the Big Apple to direct it. Zachari, who starred in SSC’s hilarious comedy, “Lend Me A Tenor,” last month, affixes his magical comedic touch to this dark composite of tales, incorporating silliness through the actors’ gestures and timing.
The play has serious moments and life’s lessons, too, which are banged home, sledgehammer style, through frequent reprises of the theme song, “Into the Woods” and also “You Are Not Alone”. Sondheim and Lapine warn you to be careful what you wish for; children should listen to their parents; be wary of strangers, regardless of their friendly demeanor; that the woods are filled with scary, strange, weird creatures; and there’s safety in numbers.
The stage is divided into three areas, to introduce and infuse three fairy tales simultaneously - Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Jack in the Beanstalk - but threads Little Red Riding Hood and others in-between. Set and lighting designer Thomas Doucette Jr. has created eerie, gnarly trees with personified limbs and dramatic lighting, corresponding with Andy Kulhavy’s spooky sound effects, including a giant’s thudding and thumping stomps and weird echoing voice. Linda Burtt’s rich costumes also add to the production.
Zachari has gathered a talented cast that revels and romps in his wackiness. Talented Katy Geraghty of Gloucester is outstanding as Little Red Riding Hood. She isn’t timid or sweet - she’s bratty, bossy, brave, and a self-indulgent overeater.
Joey Mirabile, who has double duty here as choreographer and Rapunzel’s prince, is hysterical in duets with Cinderella’s unfaithful prince, portrayed by Nicholas Christopher (who also effectively portrays the evil wolf). The duo garnered enthusiastic applause when singing their lament, “Agony,” and its reprise.
Unfortunately, some of Sondheim’s catchy, clever lyrics became lost or garbled in the sound system; were muffled under full masks; or when the actors weren’t facing the audience.
Katie Meehan isn’t cruel enough as the ugly witch but is fine when she regains her beauty after fulfilling her spell. Alaina Fragoso as Cinderella is lovely; Kevin Cirone is a gentle Baker; and his real-life girlfriend, Shonna McEachern, shines as his supportive wife. Not to be overlooked are Harry Rothman in dual roles as the narrator and mysterious man, (who is really the Baker’s dad); Henry Dembowski as Cinderella’s besotted dad; Connor Fatch as Jack and Elyssa Bjorkman as Rapunzel; and the rest of the cast.
Now if we could just stop people from going into the woods so frequently.......
BOX INFO: Two-act musical, by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, appearing Thursday-Sunday, July 15-18, at Salem State College (SSC) Mainstage Auditorium, 352 Lafayette St., Salem. Performances are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. Premium tickets are $25; seniors, students, $20; general admission, $22/$17. For tickets or more information, visit www.salemstatetickets.com, call 978-542-7555 or visit the Box Office an hour before the show.