Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Into The Woods"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Larry Stark


"Into The Woods"

Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Directed by Suzanne Bixby
Musical Director Arthur Finstein

Set Design by Matt Woods
Lighting Design by Chris Carda
Costume Design by Linda Burtt
Properties by Christine MacMillan
Sound Design by Kent Larson, Joy Kendall
Cinderella Puppets by Linda Burtt, Jane Hillier-Walkowiak
Little Red Riding Hood Shadow Puppets by Heather Daley, Erin Daley
Stage Manager Marsha Jackson

Narrator/Mysterious Man...Brian D. Ott
Cinderella..........................Sarah Turner
Jack..............................Adam Sechelski
Milky-White......................Luke Paulino
Baker....................Randy Todd Elkinson
Baker's Wife..............Margaret McCarty
Cinderella's Stepmother...Kim Eggleston
Florinda.........................Jaime Steinbach
Lucinda.............................Sara Camden
Jack's Mother.....................Lisa Astbury
Little Red Riding Hood........Hayley Goff
Witch.........................Nicole E. Montany
Cinderella's Father............Dennis Falwell
Cinderella's Mother.............Phyllis Uloth
Wolf/Steward...................Tom Lawrence
Rapunzel...............................Ann McCoy
Rapunzel's Prince.......Steven Engelbrecht
Grandmother...................Maria Sundquist
Cinderella's Prince.................David Ieong
Giant...............................Maria Sundquist
Orchestra
Conductor...........................Arthur Finstein
Flute.................................Suzanne Johnson
Clarinet/Bassoon...Louis Toth/Barry Mirrer
Trumpet..................Tim Cote/David Baxter
Cello..............Jen Minnich/Carolyn Stephan
Synthesizer..........................Carol Bradford
Bass.......................................Ben Sherman
Percussion......Mark Kohler/Zachary Hardy
Piano..................................Joshua Finstein

The Arlington Friends of The Drama work on a high, narrow, fairly deep stage, and Suzanne Bixby had to use every inch of it to put all twenty members of her "Into The Woods" cast into Matt Wood' inventively cartoonish sets, and Music Director Arthur Finstein and an excellent eight-piece orchestra let the music flow where it counted. However the concentration here was on James Lapine's intertwined story-lines and Stephen Sondheim's equally intricate lyrics. The five different nursery-tales juggled and re-told, re-examined re-thought and lampooned, had a good, solid outing --- with some individual details all Arlington's own.

For one thing, Arlington scheduled a children's matinee of Act I --- which despite inventive original twists ends with "Happily ever after!" That meant though that Red Riding Hood's Wolf (Tom Lawrence) had little of the physical or dramatic sexuality from the original Broadway version --- and that his swallowing Red and Grandma (always a problem) was handled by shadow-puppets. Otherwise, that act should have enthralled kids and parents equally.

In an ingenious solution, Matt Woods made the three houses of the Baker, Cinderella, and Jack into flats that folded flat down onto the stage when the cast needed a Woods that stretched the full stage --- and Chris Carda's lights then isolated spots for more intimate moments. Jack's cow Milky White was also flat, but manipulated by an impish, black-clad, portable little stage-hand (Luke Paulino). Deep up-stage a ramp stretched from left to right, with another step behind it rising from there to the left again, so that going on the "journey" gave the story genuine motion, and made interesting stage-pictures when the entire cast was en promenade.

Linda Burtt and four assistants provided lush costumes for men and women alike --- the romantic Princes (both named Charming!), and Cinderella's sisters in particular became puffy pastries or bonbons! The effect everywhere was of children's storybook illustrations brought gloriously to life.

What hit me most in the performances was an eagerness in almost every cast member to bite into the Snap of the many satirical lines that kept a surface liveliness rolling throughout --- one Prince even gave a little hop before plunging off toward yet a newer conquest. And Act II, which owes a lot more to Freud (or Jung!) than to the Brothers Grimm, never spared in emphasizing the real difficulties that must be lived and overcome. All in all, as I say, a solid outing for all concerned.

Love,
===Anon.


"Into The Woods" (5 - 21 April)
ARLINGTON FRIENDS OF THE DRAMA
22 Academy Street, arlington, MA
1(781) 646-5922


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