Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS at Barrington Stage

Review Roundup: INTO THE WOODS at Barrington StageBarrington Stage Company's Into the Woods is now on stage with performances now through July 13 on the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage.

Into the Woods features music and lyrics by 13-time Tony Award winner Stephen Sondheim, a book by James Lapine (Sunday in the Park with George) and was originally directed on Broadway by James Lapine. Orchestrations are by Jonathan Tunick (Broadway's Follies) with musical direction by BSC Associate Artist Darren R. Cohen (BSC's West Side Story) and direction by BSC Associate Artist Joe Calarco (BSC's A Doll's House, Part 2).

"Anything can happen in the woods." This is the promise, and premise, of the much-loved Tony-Award winning musical Into the Woods. A childless baker and his wife endeavor to lift their family curse by journeying into the woods, where they encounter Rapunzel (and her witchy "mother"), Cinderella, Jack (of Beanstalk fame), Little Red Riding Hood and other classic fairy tale characters. Their stories become entangled in unexpected ways, revealing what happens after "happily ever after." The wickedly witty score weaves a magical spell with such enchanting gems as "Children Will Listen," "Giants in the Sky" and "No One Is Alone."

Starring in a new production of Into the Woods will be Zoë Aarts (Rider University's Heathers) as "Lucinda," Leslie Becker(Broadway's Amazing Grace) as "Jack's Mother/Giant's Wife," James Cella (Judson Theatre Company's Twelve Angry Men) as "The Steward," Sarah Dacey Charles (Broadway's Les Misérables) as "Cinderella's Stepmother/Granny/Cinderella's Mother," Mara Davi (BSC's Company; Broadway's Dames at Sea) as "The Baker's Wife," Mykal Kilgore (Broadway's Motown the Musical) as "The Witch," Dorcas Leung (Broadway's Miss Saigon) as "Little Red Riding Hood," Pepe Nufrio (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Evita) as "Rapunzel's Prince," Megan Orticelli (Northwestern University's Little Shop of Horrors) as "Florinda," Jonathan Raviv (Atlantic Theater Company's The Band's Visit) as "The Baker," Amanda Robles (Jerome Robbins Theater's From Here to Eternity) as "Cinderella," Thom Sesma (Second Stage's Superhero) as "Narrator/Mysterious Man," Clay Singer (Riverside Theatre's Next to Normal) as "Jack," Anna Tobin as "Rapunzel" and Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton (Walnut Street Theatre's Matilda) as "Cinderella's Prince/The Wolf."

Into the Woods has scenic design by Brian Prather, costume design by Jen Caprio, lighting design by Sherrice Mojgani, sound design by Matt Kraus. Wig design by J. Jared Janas, Puppet design by Brandon Hardy. Casting by Pat McCorkle. Production Stage Manager: Renee Lutz.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

J. Peter Bergman, Berkshire Edge: Barrington Stage Company's production, led by Calarco, is as fabulous as the story of the show with an extraordinarily beautiful and functional set designed by Brian Prather, who exceeds his earlier work here and elsewhere delivering the fantastic realism the show requires. Jen Caprio's costumes are equally remarkable. For the most part, each character has one costume that defines who they are with absolute structure, but for the witch, she has gone to absolute extremes that almost make this a Parisian excursion into fantasy fashion week. Her Cinderella costumes are stunning also. Sherrice Mojgani's lighting design is truly integral with the play's story and moods-so nicely done. The hair and make-up design work is integral in this show and beautifully delivered by J. Jared Janas. Matt Kraus delivers with his sound design, without which the second act would be total fantasy, but he brings reality to it, and Brandon Hardy's puppet design is delightful.

Roseann Cane, Berkshire on Stage: Mykal Kilgore, as the ugly witch who eventually transforms from a hideous crone into a regal golden beauty, commands the stage in the best sort of way, with solid presence, a startling performance, and a powerfully beautiful voice. To be sure, a strong ensemble is crucial to the success of Into the Woods, and every member of this dazzling cast shines. Thom Sesma's Narrator/Mysterious man (some cast members play double roles) brings us two completely different figures who, not incidentally, serve a similar purpose in providing guidance to audience and, later, to characters in the play. Dorcas Leung's Little Red Riding Hood is a hoot, a tough cookie under a cloak. As Cinderella, Amanda Robles is tender and moving, with a silvery singing voice that, at times, seemed not to enunciate clearly, but gave a lovely performance nonetheless. Clay Singer is a charmingly innocent Jack whose love for his cow is palpable, as is his obedient understanding and love for his mother (the lovely Leslie Becker, who crafted two additional, memorable roles, Granny and the Giant's Wife, with equal aplomb). Raviv and Davi, the Baker and his Wife, movingly embody their complex relationship as well as the metamorphosis of their partnership.

Steve Barnes, Times Union: Scheming, domineering, manipulative and maternal, Kilgore as the Witch is theatrical personally and vocally. (And her costumes, by Jen Caprio, are magnificent.) Clarion and at time harsh when the Witch is angry, particularly in the Witch's big tirade, "Last Midnight," Kilgore's voice becomes caressingly beautiful at the end, when the Witch sings "Children Will Listen," one of only two of the show's 22 musical numbers that have achieved real standalone status. (The other, "No One Is Alone," precedes it at the end and is outstanding in its own right, performed as an ensemble number.)

Stephen Sorokoff, Berkshire Eagle: The production also is noteworthy for its remarkable sense of ensemble. Despite that, there are some standouts.In addition to the aforementioned Davi and Raviv, there is Thom Sesma's smooth, reassuring Narrator; Amanda Robles' authentic, realistic Cinderella; Dorcas Leung's feisty Red Riding Hood; and Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton in sly double duty as Red Riding Hood's Wolf and Cinderella's vain, self-centered Prince, whose "moment" in the woods with Davi's baker's wife is a sly revelation. As The Witch, Kilgore is at his most authentic in an affecting duet with Anna Tobin's Rapunzel in the first act - "Stay With Me."

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