Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Into The Woods"

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entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"Into The Woods"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The first show of Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's 42nd summer season 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 and ran for 764 performances starring Bernadette Peters as the Witch and Joanna Gleason as the Baker's Wife. This show was inspired by Bruno Bettelheim's 1976 book, "The Uses of Enchantment". The musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales and follows them further to explore the consequences of the characters wishes and quests. The characters some new and some familiar set out into the woods on a quest. Act One sees them pursuing "happily-ever-after" destinies. The musical's second half explores what happens after "happily-ever-after" as the characters confront giants, mayhem, conflict and disappointment. In the end, they discover that perhaps happiness is simply found in living the tale and turning the pages. The main characters are taken from Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella, tied together by an original tale about a Baker and his wife and their quest to start a family, most likely taken from an original story of Rapunzel taken from the Brothers Grimm. Director Stacey Stephens,musical director Charles Peltz who also conducts the fantastic orchestra with inventive choreography by Wendy Hall and they come up victorious with this Sondheim show. The musical numbers in the first act are light and fluffy like the original fairy tales but it is the second act that really grabs you with its poignancy and power. The multitalented cast does terrific work on this very difficult show to perform.

Stacey not only directs the show beautifully but blocks it wonderfully, too. I last reviewed Stacey as a director in 2007 when he directed "Singing in the Rain".The set is by Janie Howland with gorgeous costumes by Stacey.The three fairytales are Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and the Baker and his wife. The main character who runs in and out of these tales is the witch marvelously played with high energy by the sexy Rachel York. She brings a lot of depth to this role changing from old hag to young beauty clad in a sexy red outfit in the flash of the eye. Her first song is about the vegetables the Baker's father stole and she puts a curse on the Baker's father for stealing her vegetables, prevents the Baker and his wife from having a baby. The witch only shows warmth to her adopted or rather stolen daughter, Rapunzel in her songs "Stay with Me" where she wants the girl to stay trapped in her tower and in "Witch's Lament" where she mourns her daughter after the giant kills her. Rachel's show stopping number is "The Last Midnight" and plays this very demanding role extremely well, capturing the hearts of the audience while doing so.

Doug Jabara as the Baker and Shannon Lee Jones as the Baker's wife do many comic bits in the first act but the power of their roles really shines through when they tug your heartstrings. They hunt for four things to break the curse including finding the cow. They have other crazy antics that liven up the proceedings with their wild machinations. Shannon's "Moments in the Woods" after her tryst with Cinderella's prince is very poignant. I reviewed Shannon last year at Foothills Theatre as Miss Mona in "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas". His most poignant song is his duet with his father in "No More" after the giant kills his wife. The audience is left in tears at the close of this song. The role of Cinderella is played by McCaela Donovan who has a gorgeous soprano voice. She wants to go to the festival being thrown by the King. Her voice soars in many numbers but is most impressive in "No Is Alone" where she comforts Red Riding Hood by saying her dead mother and grandmother's spirits will never leave her alone. Allison Russell plays Red Riding Hood. She buys bread and sweets from the Baker in the first act for granny but devours it before she gets to her house. Her encounter with the wolf enlightens her in "I Know Now". She becomes stronger and a little more blood thirsty when she and granny skin the wolf and she carries the knife for protection during the rest of the show. Little Red Riding Hood learns that you have to be careful what you wish for. Gregory Issac Stone plays the dimwitted Jack who sells his beloved cow Milky White for the magic beans. He is a senior at Boston Conservatory and shows great depth in this role. Gregory shows off his powerful singing voice in "Giants in the Sky" where he learns a valuable lesson that there will be serious consequences to your actions so you shouldn't steal from others.

Scott Wahle does an excellent job as the narrator of the show. He also plays the mysterious man who has a secret that he is hiding.Two of the biggest scene stealers in this show are the two princes.Ayal Miodovnik plays Cinderella's Prince and Brennan Roach is Rapunzel's Prince. They stop the show with their hilarious song "Agony" which is my favorite song in this show. In the first act they are suffering because they can't get the girls they want to be their wives while in the second act their agony is because they have the 2 women as their wives. They explain that "Royalty just can't make up its mind. Their acting is sublime with the right amount of pomposity in these roles.Ayal also plays the wolf, after he eats granny, he snores in bed and the Baker realizes who he is kills him. Ayal also does a comical tango with Red Riding Hood. Gorgeous blonde Krista Buccellato plays Rapunzel who is trapped in a high tower. She also has a fantastic soprano voice. Catherine Lee Christie is a hoot as Jack's cantankerous mother. Her laugh out loud moments come whether she is yelling at Jack for being stupid and when she is telling off the female giant who goes on a rampage after the death of her husband. Kudos to the other cast members who do a tremendous job in this very difficult Sondheim show. So for a topnotch rendition of "Into The Woods" be sure to catch this show at Reagle Music Theatre where you will find a Broadway style entertainment in MA.

"Inot The Woods" (7 - 27 June)
@ 617 Lexington Street, WALTHAM MA
1 (781)891-5600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide