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Review: Roxy Regional Theatre's 2022 Revival of INTO THE WOODS May Mark Another Turning Point For The Company

Emily Ruck Directs 'Clever and Imaginative' Production Featuring Roxy Newcomers and Familiar Faces

Review: Roxy Regional Theatre's 2022 Revival of INTO THE WOODS May Mark Another Turning Point For The Company
Michael Ricciardone and Rachel Lind in Into the Woods.

In 2010, the Clarksville-based Roxy Regional Theatre staged a production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's "exquisitely off-kilter and melodiously rapturous musical Into the Woods" which remains firmly ensconced in my memory for its many attributes, not the least of which were the actors (Sarah Levine, Rachael Fogle, Josh Bernaski, Gregory Pember, Jackie Ostick and current artistic director Ryan Bowie) who brought the show so vividly to life and whose performances remain among some of the best we've seen at the venue in its 40 years. In fact, we often cite that 2010 Into the Woods (after another fondly remembered production some 15 years even before that) as a turning point, of sorts, in the history of The Roxy.

When it was announced that Into the Woods would be the opening production of the company's 40th season, we were giddy with anticipation that this new iteration, directed by the multi-talented Emily Ruck, could likewise prove just as consequential and which would herald the advent of a new era of artistic achievement at The Roxy. Imagine our delight upon attending the penultimate performance of Into the Woods 2022, during which we witnessed another awe-inspiring and thoroughly delightful rendition of the show that continues to offer a unique view of what life is really like when "happily ever after" surpasses its use-by date.

Review: Roxy Regional Theatre's 2022 Revival of INTO THE WOODS May Mark Another Turning Point For The Company
Leah Mossman as Cinderella

Ruck's concept for the production is clever and imaginative, somehow managing to add more wonder and awe to the proceedings and delivering a very familiar work that still has the power to surprise and engage. In addition, her cast is - like so many season-opening productions at the theater - filled with new faces, whom we hope to see in other shows during the remainder of season 40. The timing for the musical's selection to open a new season is ideal, particularly in the wake of Sondheim's passing, which underscores his vital role of contemporary musical theater.

The power of the storytelling in LaPine's book for the musical is still as potent as ever, with Sondheim's exquisite score presenting a plethora of characters we already know so well from children's literature in a remarkably compelling fashion that gives each new contemporary flair and deeper meaning. In her imaginative direction, Ruck focuses on the nuances of each character that allows audiences to become reacquainted with them and to see them as human beings as opposed to theatrical archetypes.

Sondheim's lush and wondrous score (under the musical direction of Tyler Saunders), proves the very evocation of "fairy tales." Act One's opening number is hopeful and joyous, while "Hello, Little Girl" is deliciously ribald and disingenuously sexy, while "Agony" is melodramatic and amusingly droll. The score's two power ballads, "No One Is Alone" and "Children Will Listen," are just as moving as ever and emotional tributes to the human spirit, performed with conviction by the amazing ensemble of actors who bring the show to such glorious life.

Review: Roxy Regional Theatre's 2022 Revival of INTO THE WOODS May Mark Another Turning Point For The Company
Sam Alan Johnson and Rachel Lind

The lovely Leah Mossman is wonderfully appealing as Cinderella, with Michael Ricciardone (whom last we saw as Baldwin in Cry-Baby) initially seems innocence personified, evolving into a capable young man buffeted by the passage of time in the wonderland turned devastated wasteland in Act Two. Michael Floriano and Rachel Lind (who "justifies the beans" with notable charm) are ideally cast as the Baker and His Wife, their palpable onstage chemistry ensuring their book scenes land with essential emotion, and giving their musical numbers more depth.

Zoe Fox is delightful as Little Red Ridinghood even if she seems rather subdued in the florid role. Tall and handsome (and requisitely charming) Sam Alan Johnson makes a perfect Cinderella's Prince and is perhaps even more startling as the Wolf (here Ruck's imagination proves most fertile), while David Ridley offers more proof of his own versatility as Rapunzel's Prince, and Brett Vance provides strong support as steward to the royal family.

Ruck, pulling double duty in this production, is divinely unctuous and imperious as Cinderella's stepmother, with Olivia White (so stunning in the recent The Color Purple) and Faith Konty well-cast as her stepsisters Florinda and Lucinda. Jama Bowen is warmly acerbic as Jack's Mother, and special attention should be paid to David Graham who brings Jack's beloved Milky White to life with sublime puppetry skills.

Review: Roxy Regional Theatre's 2022 Revival of INTO THE WOODS May Mark Another Turning Point For The Company
Faith Konty, Olivia White, Zoe Fox, Rachel Lind
and Stacy A. Turner in Into The Woods.

Finally, Stacy A. Turner is by turns captivating and amusing as The Witch and Donald Groves does a splendid job as the show's narrator and the "Mysterious Man." Kudos, as well to Meghann Shoulders as Granny, Ariana Perlson as Rapunzel. Katie Stafford as "Snow White" and Alexandria Smith as Sleeping Beauty.

With much creativity, Ryan Bowie provides the perfect physical setting for Into the Woods, which is beautifully lighted by designer Dale Pickard. Bowie, Ruck and Donald Groves are credited with the production's lovely costume designs, which are utterly delightful.

Into the Woods. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by James Lapine. Directed by Emily Ruck. Musical direction by Tyler Saunders. At The Roxy Regional Theatre, Clarksville. Through September 24. For further details, go to www.roxyregionaltheatre.org.

photos by Donald Groves




From This Author - Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 35 years. In 1989, Ellis and his partner l... (read more about this author)


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