BWW Reviews: Eagle Theatre's INTO THE WOODS is Enchanting
One of the pleasures of the Eagle Theater's production is the way it avoids the addition of complicated interpretive layers. "Into the Woods" must be first of all charming; the shadows fall later. Sondheim's brilliant music and lyrics, paired with James Lapine's excellent book, are weird and wonderful enough on their own, and this production, directed by Ed Corsi allows that quirky charm, dark humor and human conflict to unfold naturally.
Into the Woods debuted in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986, and premiered on Broadway on November 5, 1987. Bernadette Peters's performance as the Witch and Joanna Gleason's portrayal of the Baker's Wife brought acclaim to the production during its original Broadway run. Into the Woods won several Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical (Joanna Gleason)
All the famous Grimm's characters - Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (beanstalk), and others come together in this beguiling marriage of enchantment and anxiety, which opens up after those well-known, happy-ending stories end.
Sondheim's "woods" is a place of both illusion and stark reality, the playground and proving ground of life itself. It's a retreat, an enchanted place where wondrous moments can happen. But it's also a testing ground for moral strength and resilience. The woods can be welcoming or terrifying, shimmering with light or gloomy darkness.
The trick of "Into the Woods" is giving wings to the more serious, yet also darkly funny, drama of Act II. Here the cast breaks from earlier farce to become characters struggling with dented dreams and disillusion, but who rally together in the face of a greater concern - indeed, a common enemy, a Giant that threatens their entire way of life, Prince and common villager alike. For what is the point of "Into the Woods" if it is not about the gaining of wisdom?
Everything about the Eagles production makes sense; well as much sense as any of Sonndheim's insanely clever music and addictive lyrics could. As Wood's witch sings "I'm not good, I'm not nice, I'm right". This production conceptualized by both Ed Corsi & Ted Wioncek III is "just right".
From the solid casting with not a weak member in the lot, the standout performances go to Jeff Reim (The Baker), Sean Elias (Milky White/Rapunzel's Prince), and Will Connell as Jack (of Jack and the beanstalk fame). The female casting is equally stellar from the super convincing Cindy Chait as the Witch to the "not as flighty as I appear" Cinderella well played by Elena Camp. Song highlights "Giants in the Sky" (Jack), "Agony" (Cindererella's Prince and Rapunzel's Prince). This audience was 'treated' to enjoy Tom Craig, understudy for the role of The Wolf/Cinderella's Prince. Craig did a superb job with this demanding role. Lest we forget the witty/silly Narrator /Mysterious Man played to perfection by David Wills.
The oversized forest setting was most impressive thanks to the talents of Chris Miller as was the flawless lighting also by Miller. Once again Tom Abruzzo and his band rise to the occasion for this integral score.
"Into The Woods" plays at the Eagle Theater, Hammonton NJ on selected dates through December 6th. For Tickets and information visit www.theeagletheatre.com or call 609.704.5012.
Photo # 1 Naomi Weiss (Rapunzel)
Photo # 2 Will Connell (Jack), Jeff Reim (The Baker), Jordan O'Brien (Little Red Riding Hood), Elana Camp (Cinderella)
Photo # 3 Will Connell (Jack)
Photo Credits: Chris Miller