Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol
Into the Woods
Also see Fred's review of The Realistic Joneses
The Baker (Erik Liberman) and his Wife (Danielle Ferland) are desperate to have a child; no one in their family, dealing with a curse, has done so. They and others very much hope to live happily and forever; the first act ends on quite a positive note. Cinderella's Prince (Nik Walker) finds Cinderella (Jenny Latimer) to be alluring. She has been wandering in the forest seeking self-discovery. Little Red Ridinghood (a most appealing Dana Steingold) is "eaten" by a bad wolf but just for a moment. Rapunzel (Britney Coleman) wants out of her predicament. During the first hour plus, actress Lauren Kennedy plays a disfigured yet comical Witch. Later, that character is transformed into a loquacious adviser who has knowledge for everyone she meets. There is Jack (Justin Scott Brown) and his Mother (Cheryl Stern).
For a time, working from Brothers Grimm versions, the play moves the creations in and out and in various circumstances. Justin Scott Brown, as Jack, provides fine solos on "I Guess This is Goodbye" and "Giants in the Sky." "Agony," a duet rendered by Cinderella's Prince (Walker) and Rapunzel's Prince (Robert Lenzi), is a first act highlight. The continuity of the current production is very much due to the presence of the Narrator (Jeffry Denman). The Narrator utilizes a replica of the overall performance space and moves around miniature characters within that small structure.
The show is campy and delectable. The search for the Milky White the cow is fun. Cinderella has stepsisters Lucinda (Eleni Delopoulos) and Florinda (Nikka Graff Lanzarone) who are never thrilled. Each, however, comes to wear John Lennon style sunglasses!
The first portion seems a play unto itself, so it is fitting that, after intermission, darkness, for a time, prevails. Crashes occur and a female giant (with a strange voice) brings down the proceedings. If this seems lugubrious, do not despair. The characters become stronger and more adept within the new realitythey must do so to navigate journeys. Just before the finale, Latimer, Steingold, Liberman and Brown join on the touching and informative "No One is Alone." All the actors join together as the performance concludes with "Children Will Listen." The musical director for this show, Wayne Barker, recently received a Tony nomination for his music in the current Peter and the Starcatcher.
Many of the performers are exemplary. As the Witch who is completely transformed, Lauren Kennedy must be versatile and she is convincing during both acts. Steingold's Red Ridinghood is spunky and, simultaneously, cute. Nik Walker (double cast as Cinderella's Prince and The Wolf) has a lovely singing voice. Alma Cuervo takes on Cinderella's Stepmother, Granny, and Voice of the Giant. Liberman, playing the Baker, is excellent throughout.
Designers associated with Westport's Into the Woods deserve special mention. Candice Donnelly's wardrobe choices are suitably nifty. Lighting by Robert Wierzel and sound design furnished by Zachary Williamson are pivotal rather than complementary. Allen Moyer's scenic design fuels the flow. Lamos, as ever, adds his own perceptive vision and blends it with an already wondrous piece. Ultimately, one must thank Sondheim and Lapine for collaborating and bringing forth a show which does not get old.
This presentation might be a tad too difficult for small children. The rest of us, kids forever, should find it tough to resist.
Into the Woods continues at Westport Country Playhouse through May 26th. For tickets, call (203) 227-4177 or visit www.westportplayhouse.org.
- Fred Sokol