The second show of Turtle Lane Playhouse's 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 main characters are taken from the stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella, tied together by a more original story involving a Baker and his wife and their quest to start a family, most likely taken from an original story of Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm. It also includes references to several other well-known tales. Director/choreographer Russell Greene and music director, Don Boroson tackle a Stephen Sondheim show and come up victorious. (Wayne Ward conducts the wonderful orchestra as well as playing the keyboards for the show.) The outstanding set design is by John MacKenzie who uses rear projection screens to portray the houses of the three main fairy tales with cleverly painted trees and a rising beanstalk plus various set pieces to depict the many scenes throughout the show.) The costumes by Richard Itczak are topnotch especially the Cinderella's ball gown, the witch's glamorous outfit and the princes costumes. The musical numbers in the first act are light and fluffy like the original fairy tales but it the second act that really grabs you with its poignancy and power. The multitalented cast does excellent work on this very difficult show to perform. Bravo.
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 played with high energy by Kendra Kachadoorian. She brings a lot of depth to the role changing from old hag to young beauty in a flash of the eye. Her curse on the Baker's father for stealing her vegetables, prevents them 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. Kendra's show stopping song is "The Last Midnight" where she hurls the magic beans in the woods because the others blame her for their fate. She plays this demanding role extremely well and captures the hearts of the audience while doing so.
Todd Yard as the Baker and Kate deLima as the Baker's wife (James Fitzpatrick and Lydian DeVere play the roles at alternating performances) do many comic bits in the first act but the power of their roles shines thru when they tug at your heartstrings. Kate's "Moments in the Woods" after her tryst with Cinderella's prince as they roll around in the hay onstage and Todd's duet with his father after the giant kills his wife "No More" brings tears to the audiences eyes. The hunting for the four things to remove the curse in the first act brings about many laughs at the crazy machinations they go through. The pretty brunette, Emma Boronson, Don's daughter tackles the role of Cinderella who wants to go to the King's festival, shows off her soprano voice in many numbers and especially in the poignant "No One is Alone" where she comports Red Riding Hood by saying her dead mother and grandmother's spirits will never leave her alone. Kacee Staiti plays Red Riding Hood. She buys bread and sweets from the Baker in the first act for her granny but devours it before she gets to her house. Her encounter with the wolf enlightens her in "I Know Now". The character becomes stronger and a little more blood thirsty when she and granny skin the wolf and she carries the knife with her for the rest of the show. Julien Touafek plays the dimwitted Jack who sells his beloved cow Milky White for the magic beans. Only eighteen years old he shows enormous depth for acting and singing especially in "Giants of the Sky". He learns that you mustn't steal from others or there will be serious consequences to your actions. One of my favorite numbers in "Into the Woods" is "Agony" which is hilarious as the two handsome Princes who are brothers, sing about marrying the girls of their dreams. Kevin Cirone is Cinderella's Prince and Ronnie Pompeo Jr. is Rapunzel's Prince. Both these men's voices soar in this song about how they suffer because they can't get the girls for their wives and in the second because they do have them as their wives. Royalty just can't make up its mind. They not only sing beautifully but act the roles of the princes with the right amount of pomposity. (Kevin also plays the wolf who's snoring after eating Granny arouses the baker's curiosity as he is killed off hilariously.) Noell Dorsey plays Rapunzel. She has a glorious soprano voice, too. Stephen Baker plays the Narrator who helps the audience understand what's happening and Joanne Powers (Jamie Steinbach plays it at alternating performances) is very funny as Jack's mother whether she is yelling at Jack for being stupid or at telling off the female giant who has gone on a rampage at the death of her husband. The rest of the cast handle their roles very well, too. The whole casts' last song delivers the message of the show perfectly by stating that you should care for the people closest to you because one never knows what will happen to you in a split second. So for an excellent rendition of a very difficult show to perform be sure to catch "Into the Woods" at Turtle Lane Playhouse.