BWW Reviews: INTO THE WOODS a Wish Come True

BWW Reviews: INTO THE WOODS a Wish Come True

Be careful what you wish for... but if your wish is for great theatre, your wish is granted. Playhouse Merced offers a creative set and fantastic cast in Sonheim's "Into the Woods."

The Broadway musical recently turned Hollywood hit film leaves much open for interpretation with its variations on classic fairy tales. An assortment of characters and themes - love, loss, what they wear - make room for live improvisation. In Merced's production, Joseph Hypes utilizes scenic designer Corey Strauss' wooden pillars and swing, and even the theatre's aisles in his smart staging. Strauss also doubles as a swashing Cinderella's prince and the devious, playful wolf. He plays opposite Hype's twin, Robert, as Rapunzel's prince. The two have fun hamming it up for the audience in their "agonizing" duets.

Dianne Kocher leads the remaining cast as the sprightly witch. In a bonus for audiences, she sings a lovely duet with her daughter, Meganne Kocher as Rapunzel. The Witch sends a baker and his wife into the woods to fetch items for a special potion. In exchange, she will reverse her curse that leaves the couple barren. Andrew Burkum and Melissa Beckwith provide the strongest vocals of the production and have great chemistry as the Baker and his wife. They play a major role in Sondheim's take on Jack and the Beanstalk. Paul Jackson brings a boyish sense of wonder to Jack, curly hair and all. Meanwhile, Cinderella, who will become the kingdom's queen, has an awkward comedic flair courtesy of Rachel Pearre, also equipped with a show-stopping voice for flawless high notes. Jamie Michaels also deserves mention for her adorable, endearing Little Red Ridinghood.

Jesse Stolfe narrates while a young boy (Jade Seymour) animates elements of the story in a clever framing of the script. Behind the sets, Music Director Darrell Lingenfelter sets the mood with an intimate, solo keyboard orchestration that works very well in Merced's small space.

Journey "Into the Woods" with Playhouse Merced though March 15. For ticket and show information, visit www.playhousemerced.com.

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