BWW Review: INTO THE WOODS at Barrington Stage Company is a Delightful Journey Well Worth Going On.
Fairy Tales are the "tales as old as time" we've heard tell (sung) of. They have been told over and over for centuries and with good reason. They feature beautiful, exciting, and adventurous heroes and heroines, handsome and charming gentlemen, beautiful and virtuous damsels (sometimes in distress), generally interacting with creatures (real or mythical) often from nearby woodlands, sometimes lands far far away. They teach valuable lessons. They usually begin with "once upon a time" and almost always end with "happily ever after".
The Tony-Award winning musical INTO THE WOODS is the tale of a childless baker and his wife who endeavor to lift their family curse by journeying into the woods. There 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." Along the journey we are reminded of some important and valuable lessons that are too often and easily forgotten. To be careful what you wish for. That while a slotted spoon may not catch much broth, it can catch a potato. And, (my personal favorite) that while it may be nice to know a lot, it's a little bit not.
Since opening more than 30 years ago, INTO THE WOODS has been revived several times, adapted into a Disney Film, and presented by countless regional and community theatres as well as school groups. If you are thinking, "been there - done that", there is no reason to see this presentation at BSC you are probably not alone (no one is, after all) but you are mistaken.
The team at BSC has not strayed too far off the path of the original production and that is fine. This production is high quality entertainment well worth seeing from a performance aspect alone.
The music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine withstand the test of time and by themselves are utterly delightful, particularly in the hands of a team led by Director Joe Calarco and the talented cast that includes Zoë Aarts as "Lucinda," Leslie Becker as "Jack's Mother/Giant's Wife," James Cella as "The Steward," Sarah Dacey Charles as "Cinderella'stepmother/ Granny/ Cinderella's Mother, Mara Davi as "The Baker's Wife," Mykal Kilgore as "The Witch," Dorcas Leung as "Little Red Riding Hood," Pepe Nufrio as "Rapunzel's Prince," Megan Orticelli as "Florinda," Jonathan Raviv as "The Baker," Amanda Robles as "Cinderella," Thom Sesma as "Narrator/Mysterious Man," Clay Singer as "Jack," Anna Tobin as "Rapunzel" and Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton as "Cinderella's Prince/The Wolf."
Subtle twists and turns focused less on the destination (where we go), and more on the journey (how we get there) have been worked into this production making it refreshingly new and unique. While I don't want to give too much away, I will call out a few. Jonathan Raviv and Mara Davi have strong chemistry and their performances as The Baker and his Wife are powerful and energized drawing us deeply into their story. Dorcas Leung reinvents Red as a bit of a "Bad Ass". Amanda Robles strength and skill shine brightly in both singing and acting as a more enlightened Cinderella.
But the thing that people will likely be talking about is Mykal Kilgore's performance as the Witch. Kilgore makes a role that has previously been taken on by the likes of Bernadette Peters, Phylicia Rashad, Vanessa Williams, and Meryl Streep his own. I had the pleasure of seeing all of the afore mentioned performers in the role and preferred aspects of this presentation. Kilgore's vocals are, in a word, "fierce" and not to be missed. To say nothing of his wardrobe.
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.
Performances continue Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00pm, Thursday through Saturday at 8:00pm, Wednesday and Friday at 2:00pm, and Sunday at 5:00pm at BSC's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage (30 Union Street). Tickets range from $15 - $75 and are available through Barrington Stage Box Office: (413) 236-8888 or online at www.barringtonstageco.org.