Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Into The Woods"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Teri Wilkinson

Into The Woods

Reviewed by Teri Wilkinson

Thursday, 12 May:
Tonight I've witnessed "Into The Woods" at The New Rep. Exactly one week prior, I attended a performance of "Into The Woods" produced by the Junior Class of the the Waldorf School in Hadley MA. Each was uniquely wonderful, each masterful in its own realm. And I was drawn into the rhythms of Sondheim's music and lyrics --- thoroughly!

Waldorf only did the first half of the play, so New Rep's 2nd half was a delightful surprise --- more karmic than happily-ever-after. But the major area of difference was the mastery of a team of professionally trained actors and singers, as compared to students, all of them not necessarily trained in either skill, and consequently not masters of enunciation and projection enough to be clearly heard or understood. (Of course, in both plays, when many actors were singing different lyrics simultaneously it made no diffrerence how skilled they were --- it was still difficult to decipher.)

The Waldorf School's production, while splendid, was certainly not a "supersize five-figure spectacle" like the ones the New York TIMES found in last Sunday's article on high school plays --- yet it had a richness of character that seemed to arise from a genuine bonding of the class in creating this play.

Their sets, which consisted of three fixed trees --- one with Rapunzel's tower, another with the Baker's oven --- were beautifully created by one of the parents or friends/faculty, as were the costumes. The simple flute & piano music was fine enough to support the lyrics, though at times a bit too loud for those actors who had difficulty with voice projection. (Or perhaps I was too close to the musicians?)

In the Waldorf production, the Wolf was so debonairly seductive in his top-hat (with ears) and tails (three) as he shuffled his charming way across the stage, that he brought the house down. His beardless boy/man face lent innocence to his wily ways as he charmed Little Red into revealing all he needed to know. The New Rep Wolf was more libidinous but equally entertaining. Though each Wolf commanded the stage, Brian Mariani's performance was such a high point in the Waldorf play that when all the characters returned to the stage at the finale people wondered where was the Wolf --- until someone said "He's dead!" That Wolf was sorely missed.

A unique part of the Waldorf play --- and perhaps any performance of "Into The Woods" --- was that the two Prince Charmings were played by identical twins who, darting off and on stage, were at times hard to identify. At first I thought both were played by one quick-change artist. Both had wonderfully aquiline profiles, which they played to the hilt, to which the audience responded with gales of laughter --- especially in the "Agony!" duet!

Another unique part of the Waldorf School show was a "live" cow --- played by a charming student in a cow costume complete with a sun-hat, an over-the-shoulder portable udder (like a small purse) and melancholy moo's.

I loved New Rep's performance of the full story; it was done brilliantly. I wish the two casts/crews could have seen each other's creations:
"Into the woods and out of the woods and happily ever after!"

"Into the Woods" (29 April - 5 June)
54 Lincoln Street, NEWTON HIGHLANDS, MA
1 (617) 332-1646

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide