Theatre Mirror Review>"Into The Woods"

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entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone

"Into The Woods"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Hendricken's Summer Stage show is "Into the Woods", a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. It premiered on November 5, 1987 and ran for 764 performances, starring Bernadette Peters as the Witch and Joanna Gleason as the Baker's wife. It was made into a movie in 2014 and starred Meryl Streep as the witch. The show is set in a library where the characters are reading the fairy tales out loud. The musical intertwines the plots of several of the Grimm Brothers tales and follows them further to explore the consequences of the character's wishes and quests. These stories are combined with an original one about a Baker and his wife who are living under a curse by a witch causing them to be unable to have a child. The baker and his wife set off into the woods to break the witch's curse. The other main characters include Red Riding Hood, Jack in the Beanstalk, Cinderella and Rapunzel. Act 1 finds them pursuing "happily ever after'' destinies while the second act explores when they confront giants, mayhem, conflicts and disappointments. In the end they discover happiness is found in living the tale and turning the pages. Directors Brendan McNamara and Julia Paolino as well as music director Richie Sylvia come up victorious with this Sondheim show. The musical numbers in the first act are light and fluffy like the original fairy tales while the second act grabs you with its poignancy and power.

Brendan and Julia infuse new life into this show with their twist on the telling of the tale. They block their huge 40 member cast cast beautifully, too. Both of them are juniors in college. David Weeks was the production assistant to them during the show. They collected 3000 books to donate after the show is over. Richie taught the cast the tongue twisting lyrics and intricate music. He obtains strong vocals from this young cast and Sean Donnelly conducts a marvelous twelve piece orchestra. The two story library set and costumes are by Carrie Devanney. The main character who runs in and out of all the tales is the witch played wonderfully by Victoria Soucy. She has a strong stage presence as this malevolent woman and her transformation from an old hag into a beautiful young woman is done in the flash of an eye. Her first number is about the vegetables in her garden that the Baker's father stole from her. handles the tongue twisting lyrics marvelously. The witch only shows warmth to her adopted or rather stolen daughter, Rapunzel. songs include "Stay with Me" where she wants Rapunzel to stay trapped in the tower with her and in "Witches Lament" where she mourns for her after the Giant kills her. However it is her eleventh hour number "The Last Midnight" that stuns the audience with her powerful rendition. She delivers a winning performance as this leading character.

Matt Beaune as the Baker and Julianna Fielding as the Baker's wife do many comic bits in the first act and liven up the proceedings with their clever antics. However the power of their roles shine through when they tug on your heartstrings. They search for four things to break the curse including finding a white cow. They sing "It Takes Two" together when they realize they need each other to break the curse. One of her most poignant numbers is "Moments in the Woods" after her tryst with Cinderella's Prince. His most poignant song is "No More" after the giant kills his wife. The audience is left in tears at the end of this number. Another gut wrenching moment is when Joseph Burdick appears as their grown up son to hug his father at the end of the show. Cinderella is wonderfully played by Bryn Martin who has a strong soprano voice. Cinderella wants to go to a festival thrown by the king. Her voice soars in many numbers including "A Very Nice Prince" and "On the Steps of the Palace" but is most impressive in "No One is Alone" when she comforts Little Red on the death of her mother and grandmother. She tells her their spirits will always be with her.

Katie Fitzgerald is dynamite as little Red Riding Hood. Red buys bread and goodies from the baker in the first act. However she devours everything before she reaches her grandmother's house. Her encounter with the wolf enlightens her in "I Know Things Now" and later on she becomes bloodthirsty as she skins the wolf to make a coat and carries a knife for the rest of the show. Red learns you must be careful about things you wish for. Dylan Silviera displays a powerful voice and his comic acting skills as the dimwitted, Jack who sells his beloved cow, Milky White for a handful of beans. Dylan's voice soars in "Giants in the Sky" where Jack learns a valuable lesson that there are consequences to your actions and you shouldn't steal from others.

The five Narrators are played by Joseph Burdick, Abby McMahon, Abby White, Stephen Lee and Emily Fielding. Joseph becomes the main narrator in Act 2 and a tear jerking performance as the grown up baby at the close of the show. The mysterious man is wonderfully played by Peter Mancuso who ends up being the Baker's father. He sings "No More" with his son. The two Princes are played by Kevin Madoian and Jordan Carvalhal. They sing my favorite song in the show "Agony" where they stop the show and steal many scenes with their wild and crazy antics. In the first act, they are suffering because they can't get the girls and in the second they are in agony because they are married to them and want to have fun with other women. Joey Iannucelli and Mike Villanueva play the Wolves and sing "Hello Little Girl" with Red. Michelle Vieira plays Rapunzel who is trapped high in a tower. She displays her strong soprano voice. Marcella Mazzenga is a hoot as Jack's cantankerous mother. Her laugh out loud moments include yelling at Jack for being stupid and when she tells the female giant off in the second act. Kudos to all the performers on a job well done. So for a wonderful rendition of this Sondheim show, be sure to catch "Into the Woods" before they escape from the woods for good.

INTO THE WOODS (30 July to 2 August)
SUMMER STAGE, Bishop Hendricken High School, 2615 Warwick Ave, Warwick, RI
1(401)739-3450 ext. 172 or
"Into the Woods" 30 July - 2 August)
@ Bishop Hendricken High School, 2615 Warwick Avenue, WARWICK RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide