I have long been a big fan of the work of Stephen Sondheim, but his musical "Into The Woods" has never been one of my favorite Sondheim pieces - until yesterday! Under the inspired direction of Spiro Veloudos and his design team, the remarkable cast of this production manages to make the vest pocket park-sized stage at the Lyric seems as limitless as the Russian steppe or The Black Forest.
It is clear that I am not the only one to be impressed with this production of the fairy tale mash-up. Ticket sales have been so brisk that the run of the show has been extended to June 15. So, get your tickets now while they are still available.
What makes this such a satisfying interpretation of this iconic work? Let me offer a few reflections.
The show is a technical home run. Music Director Catherine Stornetta has assembled a wonderful band of live musicians who provide the musical waves upon which the cast members surf so skillfully. Scenic Designer David Towlun has sowed some magic beans and transformed the stage into a space that serves wondrously as Rapunzel's Tower, The Baker's Shop, The Woods in which the magic happens. Costumes by Elisabetta Polito establish each well known character and offer the flexibility for rapid transformations when the script calls for such metamorphoses. Lighting by Scott Clyve, Sound by Andrew Will and gigantic projections by Jonathan Carr complete the ingredients for this witches' brew of a show.
The ensemble has been selected so that we have a motley crew of singers who can act and actors who can sing. The resulting sights and sounds are pure magic.
Mark S. Howard
- Will McGArrahan as Narrator/Mysterious Man sets just the right tone to host a "Once Upon A Time" tale.
- Erica Spyres as Cinderella has a voice as golden as her slippers. She shows supple dramatic range as she goes from rags to regal - from sweeping cinders to being swept off her feet by Prince Charming.
- Gregory Balla is simply magnificent as Jack. His rendition of "Giants In The Sky" gave me goose bumps, and is one of the many high points of this production.
- Beth Gotha as Jack's mother is appropriately worried and anxious about her son and his impractical proclivities and his strange affection for unusual pets.
- John Ambrosino returns to the Lyric stage as the Baker. His character undergoes some dramatic changes and growth, and the duet that he sings with his wife, "It Takes Two." is another highlight. There is a moment near the end of the show when Mr. Ambrosino's Baker is kneeling with his infant child in his arms. The look of despair and vulnerability on the face of the Baker is touching and cathartic.
- Lisa Yuen brings to the role of the Baker's Wife as deep sense of desperation that she will do anything to be able to lift the curse of barrenness and have a child. Her ambivalence of wanting to be a good wife while having a little fling with the Prince in the woods shows the range of this actress.
- Maureen Keller as Cinderella's stepmother, Christina English as Florinda and Elise Arsenault as Lucinda are the perfect Trifecta of domestic terror. Their facial expressions are priceless as they go through life trying to one-up Cinderella.
- Arthur Waldstein always looks as if he wandered off of the set of a Chekhov play (which he has done!), and plays a wonderfully understated Cinderella's henpecked father living quietly in the shadow of the three harpies.
- Maritza Bostic is a very memorable Little Red Riding Hood. "I Know Things Now" is her chance to shine vocally, and she nails it. She brings an exuberant and dangerous edge to the role of the girl in the Red Cape.
- Aimee Doherty is so consist that it is scary. I can always count on her to steal a scene or two by the sheer weight of her talent and energy. Her Witch casts a spell on the audience, and her rendition of "Children Will Listen" as part of the Finale brought tears to my eyes.
- Maurice Emmanuel Parent as the Wolf and Cinderella's Prince is perfectly menacing and perfectly Charming! His duet with Rapunzel's Prince, "Agony," is another highlight of the show.
- Sam Simahk as Rapunzel's Prince is the other participant in "Agony." His singing voice is stunning and majestic and he looks every bit the princely part.
- Teresa Winner Blume as Granny and Cinderella's mother adds her own kind of spice to these roles. Her entrance as Granny is hilarious and a nice "Coup de theatre."
- Amanda Spnella as Rapunzel is perfectly cast. Aloof in her tower and aptly resenting her Mommy Dearest Witch of a mother. Her melodic lament from the tower anchors the show with one of its memorable leitmotifs.
- Jeff Mahoney as Steward represents bureaucracy at its most infuriating. His line "I don't make policy; I just enforce it" defines his character.
Mark S. Howard
|John Ambrosino as The Baker|
Lisa Yuen as The Baker's Wife
Milky White as Herself
Gregory Balla as Jack
Mark S. Howard
Lyric Stage Website