Lyric Stage Company of Boston's Spring show 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, ran 764 performances and starred Bernadette Peters as the Witch and Joanna Gleason as the Baker's Wife. In Sondheim and Lapine's timeless 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 couple of not-so-princely Princes. But when everyone's wishes are granted the consequences of their self-centered actions come back to haunt them. Eventually they learn a moving life lesson about working together, the stories we tell children, and the real meaning of "happily ever after." Director Spiro Veloudos infuses new life into this musical with his keen insight while the expert musical direction is by Catherine Stornetta who taught this multitalented cast the intricate Sondheim score and conducts a seven piece orchestra. Their combined efforts produce a stunning production with the musical numbers in the first act being light and fluffy while the second act reaches out and grabs you with its poignancy and power. A standing ovation is their reward on this very difficult show to perform but they manage it with finesse.
Spiro not only directs the show brilliantly but blocks and stages the numbers and scenes with visual accuracy that captures the attention and awe of the appreciative audience. He obtains every laugh and ounce of pathos from his performers. Spiro gives them a lot of clever shtick to perform. Catherine brings out the best vocals in them with topnotch harmonic balance in the group numbers and an exquisite sound from the orchestra. The scenic design by David Towlun is terrific as are the gorgeous costumes by Elisabetta Polito. The beautiful and colorful lighting design is by Scott Clyve.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 Aimee Doherty. Aimee as the Witch, brings a lot of depth to the role, changing from Old hag to young beauty in the flash of an eye. Her first number is about the vegetables the Baker's father stole from her garden and she puts a curse on him. This curse prevents the Baker and his wife from having a baby. Aimee handles the tongue twisting lyrics with ease, annunciating every word clearly in it. The Witch only shows warmth to her adopted or rather stolen daughter, Rapunzel. Aimee's songs include "Stay with Me" where she wants her to remain trapped in her tower and in "Witch's Lament" where she mourns for her after the Giant kills her. But it is her eleventh hour song, "The Last Midnight" that stops the show with its poignancy and power at her magnificent rendition. Aimee gives a tour-de-force performance, capturing the hearts of every audience member while doing so. It was if this role was written for her. Brava!
John Ambosino as The Baker and Lisa Yuen as the Baker's Wife perform many comic bits in the first act but the power and the depth of their talents shine when they tug your heartstrings in the second act. They must hunt for four things to break the Witch's curse including a white cow. They have many other clever antics that enliven the proceedings and have excellent chemistry with each other. John has a marvelous tenor voice and his most emotion packed songs are the duet with his father in "No More" and the quartet "No One is Alone". John bursts into tears at the end of this number, delivering a gut wrenching performance. He is one of the best Bakers I have ever seen including Broadway Baker. Lisa's most poignant song is "Moments in the Woods" after her tryst with Cinderella's Prince. She always does a topnotch job in every role I have seen her in. I last reviewed Lisa as Lady Thiang at North Shore Music Theatre in 2011 before she had her twins. The audience is left in tears after these three numbers.
Playing the role of Cinderella is Erica Spyres, a gorgeous blonde. She is terrific and has a glorious soprano voice. The character wants to go the ball being thrown by the King. Erica's voice soars in many numbers but is most impressive in "No One is Alone" where she comforts Red Riding Hood, saying her mother and grandmother's spirits will never leave and with be with her forever. Red Riding Hood is played by Maritza Bostic. She buys bread and sweets from the baker in the first act but devours them before reaching granny's house. Her encounter with the Wolf enlightens her in "I Know Now". She becomes stronger and more blood thirsty when she and Granny skin the wolf. Red Riding Hood carries this knife with her for the rest of the show and eventually realizes you must be careful what you wish for. Blond haired Gregory Balla plays the dimwitted Jack excellently. His comic quips and sayings are priceless including "I have a harp and a cow for a friend now". Jack sells his beloved Milky White for the magic beans. Gregory displays his topnotch tenor voice in the group numbers and in his solos "I Guess This is Goodbye" when he sells his cow and in "Giants in the Sky" where he learns you shouldn't steal from others or there will be serious consequences to your actions. He shows great depth in this role.
Will McGarrahan does a marvelous job as the Narrator of the show as his strong authoritative voice resonates in this role. He also plays the Mysterious man who is hiding a secret from the audience. Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Cinderella's Prince and Sam Simahk as Rapunzel's Prince are hilarious as these siblings. They stop the show with their comic number which is my favorite song in the show, "Agony". In the first act they are suffering because they can't obtain the girls they want while their agony in the second act is from their wives. Their acting is marvelous with just the right amount of pomposity in these roles. They feel "Royalty just can't make up its mind." Sam has a terrific tenor voice which soars off the charts in this number. I last reviewed him last year as Lun Tha in "The King & I" at Ocean State Theatre Company. Maurice also plays the comic Wolf. Gorgeous brunette Amanda Spinella plays Rapunzel who is trapped in a high tower. She wears a blonde wig and displays her fantastic soprano voice as Rapunzel. Beth Botha 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 giant goes on a rampage after her husband's demise. Kudos to all the cast members on a job very well done in this very difficult Sondheim show. So for a superb rendition of this show which rivals the Broadway production I saw back in 1987, be sure to catch Lyric Stage Company of Boston's "Into the Woods". Tell them Tony sent you. Run do not walk to the box office before the characters run out of the woods for good on June 15.