Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

Into the Woods
National Tour
Review by Terry Morgan


The Cast
Photo by Joan Marcus
One benefit of being a theatre reviewer is that, over time, one may see many different productions of the same play, and if one is fortunate, this reveals new depths in the original work. Certainly Shakespeare benefits from this—I saw a production of The Tempest last year that reinterpreted the play in an amazing way—and now Stephen Sondheim is in the midst of celebratory revivals. This is a great thing, because it has brought us the tour of the wonderful Fiasco Theater production of Into the Woods, one of the best revivals I've ever seen.

It being a musical, a group of characters want something. The Baker (Evan Harrington) and the Baker's Wife (Eleasha Gamble) want a child. Cinderella (Laurie Veldheer) wants to go to the ball. The Witch (Stephanie Umoh) wants to be young and beautiful again. Little Red Ridinghood (Lisa Helmi Johanson) needs to get to her grandmother's house. Jack (Patrick Mulryan) needs to sell his cow, Milky White (Darick Pead). They all get what they want or need, but life exacts a price.

Harrington is affecting as the Baker, devastated by loss but choosing to go on, and is particularly strong on the song "No One Is Alone." Gamble excels as the Baker's Wife, and her work on "Any Moment" is especially gleeful. Veldheer is terrific as Cinderella, and is showcased well in "On the Steps of the Palace." Umoh dominates the proceedings as the Witch and creates appropriate drama for "The Last Midnight."

Johanson is very funny as the selfish Little Red Ridinghood, at her best in a scene in which the girl is drunk, cackling, and weaving around the stage. Mulryan does good work as the dimwitted Jack, with a lovely vocal on "Giants in the Sky," but he's even better as the rude Steward. Anthony Chatmon II is great in multiple roles, from evil stepsister Lucinda to Cinderella's charming but insincere Prince, but he shines as the Wolf, getting a dazzling turn in "Hello, Little Girl." Darick Pead steals the show, however, especially as Milky White, turning a role usually played by a non-speaking prop into a tour de force of hilarity.

Directors Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld do a superb job, their staging a marvel of constant movement with actors changing roles—oh, and did I mention that the cast play all of the music? Under Matt Castle's brilliant music supervision, one doesn't miss the traditional orchestra at all, with music director/pianist Evan Rees doing the heavy lifting. Derek McLane's set is an eye-opener, with two walls made of old pianos stacked to the ceiling, and a proscenium arch made of piano keys. Sondheim and James Lapine's classic is already well loved and respected, but this production reminds one that, in the right hands, it's a work of theatrical magic.

The touring production of the Fiasco Theater Into the Woods plays at the Ahmanson Theatre through May 14, 2017. Tickets and info are available at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org. For more information on the tour, visit www.intothewoodsontour.com.

Center Theatre Group, The Dodgers, NETworks Presentations LLC in association with McCarter Theatre Center and Roundabout Theatre Company present the Fiasco Theater production of Into the Woods with book by James Lapine, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld. Lighting Designer, Christopher Akerlind; Scenic Designer, Derek McLane; Costume Designer, Whitney Locher; Sound Designers, Darron L West and Charles Coes; Music Direction, Evan Rees; Music Supervisor, Matt Castle; Choreography, Lisa Shriver; Production Stage Manager, Brian J. L'Ecuyer.

Cast:
Baker's Wife: Eleasha Gamble
Lucinda/Wolf/Cinderella's Prince : Anthony Chatmon II
Mysterious Man: Fred Rose
Milky White/Florinda/Rapunzel's Prince: Darick Pead
Cinderella's Stepmother/Jack's Mother: Bonnie Kramer
Cinderella/Granny: Laurie Veldheer
Witch: Stephanie Umoh
Jack/Steward: Patrick Mulryan
Baker: Evan Harrington
Little Red Ridinghood/Rapunzel: Lisa Helmi Johanson
Pianist: Evan Rees




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