BWW Review: INTO THE WOODS at Flint Repertory Theatre Infuses Innovative Storytelling With Classic Fairytales
If you're in the mood to treat yourself to a wonderful piece of regional theatre this holiday season, look no further than Flint Repertory Theatre's production of Into The Woods. There's just five more performances left until this Sunday, December 15th, so make sure you go purchase your tickets as soon as possible.
With a book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by legend Stephen Sondheim, the 1987 Broadway musical Into The Woods is unique in that combines it several different fairytales to form a single story. Included in this musical are tales such as "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Rapunzel," "Cinderella," and "Little Red Riding Hood." These individual stories are weaved together with the common thread of four other characters: the Baker, the Baker's Wife, the Narrator, and the Witch.
Having never seen a live production of Into The Woods before, I was incredibly enthused to see how the stage show differed from the 2014 film I saw several years ago. That said, I don't think I could've found a better first production to see than the one at Flint Repertory. This production takes place in the Elgood Theatre, which is a theatre in the round. In this case, the set is in the middle with pews for the audience surrounding it. Not only does this make the experience infinitely more interactive with the audience, but it also makes the story more personal. The story is happening around you and not just fifty feet in front of you on a big stage. I found that this was a huge asset for the story that this musical tells, one that's set in a fantasy world yet intrinsically tied to the human experience.
The quality of set design for regional theatres never fails to astound me, and the one for Into The Woods is truly no exception. A large amount of the action takes place on an elevated set comprised of a circular staircase, two normal staircases, a myriad of dangling ropes, ladders that go up into the ceiling, and platforms that are at least six feet off the ground. So with this specific production, not only is the content of the show already phenomenal, but the production design makes the show noticeably more invigorating. As a result, you can feel the energy from the performers flow throughout the audience as the show progresses.
Though I loved every second of the show, one of my absolute favorite moments was the classic song sung by Jack (of the "Beanstalk") entitled "Giants In The Sky." As Jack, Gage Webster sings this number whilst climbing (and dancing on) a rope strung from the ceiling. It was a performance you have to see to grasp just how impressive his talent is. I'd see the production again solely for that number.
All around, the talent in this cast was top-notch. Along with Webster's Jack, a few other favorite performances of mine were Jason Briggs' performance as Baker, Emily Hadick as Cinderella, Amanda Kuo as Little Red Riding Hood, Bill English as the Wolf/Cinderella's Prince, Rico Bruce Wade as Narrator/Mysterious Man, Victoria Huston-Elem as the Baker's Wife, and Elizabeth Jaffe as the Witch.
Because each and every cast member perfectly embodied their iconic characters, the ensemble numbers ended up being some of the most enjoyable of the bunch. These included "Prologue: Into the Woods," "Ever After," and "Your Fault / Last Midnight." Honestly, every song in this show is one to look forward to, especially with a cast this talented.
Regardless of whether or not you've ever heard of Into The Woods, I would recommend this production to anyone. Though little ones may have a difficult time sitting through the show, anyone who's a young adult or older will certainly appreciate the hard work that this local cast and crew put into adapting this iconic musical for the modern theatregoer. It's art like this that makes me incredibly grateful to be a theatre fan.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for teens & seniors and $8 for college students. Genesee County Residents receive a 30% discount on public performances and subscriptions. Tickets may be purchased through The Ticket Center at 1241 E. Kearsley St., Flint, 810.237.7333, or through www.FlintRep.org.