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BWW Review: INTO THE WOODS at Footlite Musicals

BWW Review: INTO THE WOODS at Footlite Musicals Once you've read past the words "happily ever after," the book typically closes and all is right with the world. But INTO THE WOODS takes that idea and turns it on its head. Haven't you ever wondered what happens beyond those three words? Is the prince really that charming? Does the death of an enemy cure all ills? That is what makes this musical so amusing and enticing. It is a chance to look past the last page.

Celeste:

Footlite Musicals made this already challenging show an extra challenge by having a cast entirely made of young adults from ages 18 to 25. Although that can be an ideal age for someone on stage, it seemed sure to make it harder to portray age and wisdom and even the air of a parent to some of the characters. However, the cast of the show confronted this gracefully and tactfully, and I never once as an audience member struggled to see them as their characters. On the contrary, I had to remind myself after I left that this show was not made of a more widely age-diverse cast. It added to my respect for the performance and performers.

One cast member who had the challenge of age reversing stood out to me, Noah Fields as Jack. Of course, Jack and his magical beanstalk are a familiar storyline, but what struck me in Fields performance is the way he balanced being "boyish" and somewhat empty-headed with being a very strong vocal presence. I expected that tone quality or enunciation or some other nuance would be compromised by his attempt to stay in character, but he walked that thin line very well. The same can be said of Hannah Bullock as Little Red Riding Hood. I had no trouble seeing her as a feisty little girl who learned the hard way that wolves are not to be trusted.

Two couples (in a sense) who grabbed my attention were the Baker (Kyle Cherry) and his wife (Tara Sorg). The Baker in particular had a wonderfully rich timbre to his voice, and his delivery conveyed both his fumbling mannerisms as a husband and father and also his ability to be the voice of reason when things become confusing in the woods. The second couple is actually the duo of princes who woo Cinderella (Erin Elliott) and Rapunzel (Halle Catlow) after falling prey to their "hard to get" routine. Zachary Hoover and Joseph Massingale's duet "Agony" had me in agony since I was full-belly laughing at their grandiose gestures and extreme posturing. Their attempts to out-charm one another and their inability to resist an inaccessible maiden make them a light-hearted relief in the darkness of the woods.

Finally, of all the characters, it is the Witch who seems to want to show that fairy tales, and in fact the children who read them, are part darkness and light. She was played with poise by Paige Brown, who managed to take her from hilarious and ominous hag to glamorous and assertive beauty. Her full and deep voice lend a gravity to her vocals that made her a joy to witness on the stage. Without her presence, the story would have lacked the depth to show that INTO THE WOODS is about more than happy or sad endings and rather about facing the realities of growing up. Fairy tale endings can't protect you from the woods of adulthood.

Dylan:

Telling a complex story like Into The Woods in the more traditional way as compared to the recent 2014 movie is not an easy feat, and the magic they are able to create with within the theater truly impressive. Beautiful (Andy Stephens) and well executed (Lauren Johnson) lighted was able to create= some stunning imagery that was very unexpected, and I mostly enjoyed the innovative use of shadows to make moments with characters like the wolf and Little Red's grandmother and later with the witch very memorable, plus visually interesting. The show also demands a set worthy of the woods being depicted by the characters, and Stephen Matters' design definitely made the cut with his interpretation of the different vignettes. Plus, all the designers did an amazing job of opening up the space and using it in a more versatile way.

This was my first experience with the stage show, and an almost happy-go-lucky act number one makes way for an increasingly darker, more serious act two. The show well utilizes the act break for a complete tonal shift the likes of which no other musical I've been to really tries. For any fan-boy/girl of Sondheim or seer of inventive musical theater, this Footlite Musicals production is an almost must-see, and proves that anything can indeed happen when you go into the woods-even woods you know so well.

A bit of comic relief came, oddly enough, in the form of the Wolf, played by Christian Condra. His antics when hunting Little Red were riveting for the audience. It was nearly impossible to tear your eyes away from his facial and bodily expressions. Every part of him oozed oily and suspicious (and hungry) wolf.

Really though, the entire young cast and production team should be applauded for this production. It's not only a tough show from my aspects, but may just be one of the better shows I've ever seen at the Footlite, and I hope the trend of outstanding vocal talent and widely talented actors continues for them. I encourage you to get tickets and take the journey into the woods... you may be a little, as Red Riding Hood says, "excited and scared" but I promise you won't be disappointed!

It would be a shame to miss INTO THE WOODS and the talented individuals who brought these tales to life. Do not fear to venture into the shadows with them and see what a fairy tale future may hold. INTO THE WOODS shows at Footlite through July 15th.

Photo credit: Laura Baker



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