Review: REVIEW: INTO THE WOODS at Short North Stage

Even without one of its stars, SNS production finds story book ending on Sondheim masterpiece

By: Mar. 20, 2023
Review: REVIEW: INTO THE WOODS at Short North Stage

There are two adages most people know about the theatre: "Break a leg" and "The show must go on." Short North Stage experienced both as it prepared for its 19-show run of INTO THE WOODS.

On March 10, six days before opening night, Eli Brickey, who was slated to play the Baker's Wife, injured in a car accident and will not be able to perform in the run. Enter the second cliché: The show must go on.

With understudy Dionysia Williams taking over Brickey's role, the INTO THE WOODS cast delivers a spectacular opening weekend performance. The show runs March 16-April 16 at the Garden Theatre (1187 N. High Street in downtown Columbus).

The show, conceived by the late Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, is like a color photograph of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales. The first act is a beautiful color print; the second act is more like the dark negative.

The story centers around the desires of five characters:

  • Jack (Carter Minor) wishes his old cow would deliver milk;
  • Little Red Ridinghood (Alana Sayat) seeks treats for her grandma (and herself);
  • Cinderella (Olivia Billings) desires to attend the King's ball;
  • The Baker (Cory Velazco) and his wife (Williams) long for a child.

But each one of those desires entangles with the rest of the characters in the musical, with disastrous, often fatal consequences.

INTO THE WOODS, like most Sondheim pieces, relies on the strength of a cast rather than putting the weight on one or two people to carry the show. SNS seems to thrive in the ensemble shows and this one is no exception.

Prior to the opening, Diana DeGarmo (who plays the Witch), the runner-up of American Idol's third season is on the poster for the show, said "This is a team sport show for sure."

DeGarmo delivers some of the show's signature songs - the rapid fire "Witch's Entrance" rap, the haunting "Children Will Listen," the ominous "The Last Midnight" and the pleading "Stay with Me" exquisitely.

However, DeGarmo is not the only star by far. The chemistry between Williams and Velazco, her real-life fiancé, shines through in songs like "Maybe They're Magic" and "It Takes Two." The couple's plotline becomes intertwined with their neighbors Jack and his mother (Linda Kinnison Roth) and of course Milky White the Cow (puppeteer Matthew Sierra) on one side and Little Red Ridinghood (Sayat) on the other. Roth, who seems to gravitate to cantankerous roles, will not win any mother of the year awards as Jack's chain-smoking, hard-to-please mom. Although they are still in high school, Minor and Sayat, who are quickly becoming SNS veterans and match the galloping pace of "Your Fault" with DeGarmo, Velazco and Billings.

Billings presents a multifaceted Cinderella, bringing to her feelings of jealousy, longing, disillusionment, betrayal, and finally, hope. Nick Hardin transforms into the epitome of nastiness as the stepmother while Marshawn Clodfelter and Tessa Druhan go from being envied by Cinderella to envying the social climber.

One of the things that makes INTO THE WOODS stand out is the ability of actors to blend in. Jordan Young oozes slime while providing the voice of the lustful wolf for "Hello Little Girl" and then, like a chameleon, changes into the haughty prince for the comedic duets with fellow prince Justin LaBelle in "Agony" and Williams in "Any Moment" and "Lament." Thom Christopher Warren, who serves as the show's narrator, is completely unrecognizable in cameos as the mysterious man. Krista Stauffer, who plays the spirit of Cinderella's Mother, Little Red Ridinghood's Granny, and the voice of the very angry Mrs. Giant and Sierra, who brings to life Milky White, the Wolf, and a pack of angry birds, also handle roles well.

Madeleine McNamara, who plays the tuneful Rapunzel, Ryan Shreve, the hipflask swigging father of Cinderella, and the always entertaining Luke Bovenizer also deliver sparkling performances.

Kudos should also go to set designer Teresa Williams, musical director Jonathan Collura and costume designer Darcy Kane. Teresa Williams created a lush, two-story stage that moves from a humble bakery to a lavish castle to a green forest. Collura keeps the orchestra of Tom Regouski (reeds), David Giesler (trumpet), Matthew Kinnear (violin), Will Mayer (drums), and Robin Coolidge, Jr. (cello) tight and on the money. In an interesting SNS touch, Kane set the characters is semi-modern clothing. Clad in polo shirts with sweaters wrapped around their necks, the princes look like they stepped out of an L.L. Bean catalog and Little Red dons tube socks and roller skates.

INTO THE WOODS is one of the shows you should not miss this spring. However, if you do attend, don't tell anyone there to "break a leg."

Local actor Eli Brickey is facing an extensive recovery after her car accident. Friends have started a gofundme account for her medical bills and expenses at


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