BWW Review: North Carolina Theatre's INTO THE WOODS
Into the Woods intertwines the plots of several fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault exploring the consequences of the characters' wishes and quests. The main storyline focuses on a childless baker and his wife as they go into the woods to break a spell set upon them by a witch. There they run into various classic fairy tale characters. All before exploring what happens after 'happily ever after'.
The original Broadway production debuted on November 5th, 1987 in a season that would later be dominated by The Phantom of the Opera. With that being said, Into the Woods still won its fair share of gold at the Tony Awards (including Best Book of a Musical for author James Lapine and Best Original Score for composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim). It has since then gain a huge cult-following from a filmed performance of the original cast released on home video, to countless productions from schools, community and/or regional theatres, to a 2002 Tony-Winning Broadway revival, to the most recently successful 2014 film adaptation from Disney.
This production currently playing at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium through October 25th stars Jamison Stern as the insecure baker and Raleigh native Laurel Harris (last seen in the Triangle area earlier this year in Wicked) as the baker's determined wife. They both work very well together. Jacquelyn Piro Donovan also leaves quite a striking impression as The Witch. Actor Dick Lumbard goes back and forth between narrating the story and playing a mischievous mysterious man.
Not to mention that almost everyone else in the ensemble cast gets their own opportunity to shine. Abby Church as the earnest maiden, Cinderella; Jeremy Morse (most recently seen in the Broadway-Bound Waitress in Boston) as the bright-eyed Jack; Jennifer Cody looks and sounds very convincing as the strong-willed Little Red Riding Hood; and Nathaniel Hackmann in his roles as the hungry wolf and Cinderella's 'charming' prince.
Nicely staged by director James Brennan with some colorful lighting designs by John Bartenstein and a moving set designed by Paul Wonsek. It's easy to see why this show has been so beloved by many because of its relevance and its universal message of be careful what you wish for.