Chad Reviews "Into The Woods"
There are a few names that immediately spring to mind when discussing the architects of American musical theatre, but the one that is undeniable as far as critical, historical and cultural impact is that of composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim. From as far back as the mid ‘50s, Sondheim (mentored early in his life by the great lyricist and playwright in his own era, Oscar Hammerstein II) has become one of the most influential and prolific contributors to the art form. Ever since the spectacularly smashing success of “West Side Story” in 1957, Sondheim’s DNA has been present in some particularly iconic productions that have been translated into film adaptations where they found an entirely new generation of fans. one such example is the 2014 theatrical release of “Into the Woods” by the Walt Disney Company, which received critical and commercial success, even garnering veteran actress Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of The Witch, catapulting the production back into the public eye resulting in a newfound interest in the musical. The Fiasco Theater Production of “Into the Woods” recently has made its way to the Winspear Opera House as part of the AT&T Performing Arts Centre series through May 28th.
The story brings together several iconic characters and storylines from the fairy tales of The Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, like Cinderella (Laurie Veldheer), Rapunzel/Little Red Riding Hood (portrayed by understudy Alanna Saunders), Jack (Patrick Mulryan), as well as The Baker and his wife (Evan Harrington & Eleasha Gamble) and at the center of it all, the Witch (Vanessa Reseland). The hapless Baker and his wife find themselves childless after many years of attempting to raise a family in their quiet woodland home, and when they learn that their plight has been caused by a witch’s curse, they must collect various items to concoct a potion that will break the spell. They are then forced to interact with various inhabitants and denizens of the woods in their mad scramble to break the curse before time runs out.
There are several things to like about this production, with a cast that is truly top-notch with standout performances by Reseland as the Witch and the absolutely effervescent Saunders as Little Red Riding Hood/Rapunzel. However, The absolute scene stealer of the production is the immensely talented Darick Pead. While playing multiple roles as Rapunzel’s Prince and Cinderella’s rotten stepsister Florinda, it is his breakout performance of Milky White, Jack’s beloved cow (yes you read that right, COW) that will leave everybody in stitches. I never realized a MOO could be delivered in so many ways, with such emotion and conviction. There were portions during the first act where my mind wandered a bit, and the stage was a little threadbare for a production of this size, but overall it was an enjoyable enough experience. The cast really gives it their all and manages to pull it all together in admirable fashion.