Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Into the Woods
Also see Wally's review of The Gin Game
This musical is a zany and quizzical take on many well-known fairytales and the "After" that takes place beyond "Ever After." In this story, Cinderella, Rapunzel, their respective princes, Jack with his beanstalk, Red Riding Hood, a Witch, and a childless Baker and his wife come together to create a raucous and wild experience that is in one word, delightful. Leave it to Stephen Sondheim to take part in the creation of a world that is at once immediately affecting, beautiful, comical and complex.
We are no strangers to fairytales ourselves, modern day myths that inform and teach us as children essential life lessons. Many a scholar and artist has delved into the secret meanings and mysterious origins of our fairytales and myths. Throughout the history of our world, myths have served to describe and speak to issues that we face as we go through life. They teach us social morals and give us a reference point when we come to certain problematic quandaries. As we grow older, though fondly, we may remember these tales to be quaint and shallow.
Into the Woods is neither quaint nor shallow. Delving into the problems that we face in life with a charismatic energy, this production portrays what it is to wish, to grow up, to sacrifice, to love, to gain and lose in the same breath. Even though we are familiar with each character and with their stories they represent, the story that unravels in this production draws us in and surprises us.
Musical Theatre Southwest's production in particular is an achievement as far as this musical is concerned. Into the Woods is an ensemble show that requires multiple roles to be filled by talented singers who can work well with each other and who are able to follow the extremely complex music that Sondheim has written. Talent abounds in this productionAlbuquerque should be very proud.
Leading off the show with a fierce talent and a beautiful voice is Tahirih Garcia as Cinderella. Derrick Medrano and Beth Elliot follow up with amazing performances as Jack and his mother. The Baker and his wife are particularly wonderful, played by Jonathan Dunski and Erin Warden. Erin should win an award for her exemplary acting and singing. The Witch is played by Tasha Waters, who has a powerful voice and wows the audience with every number she performs. The excess of pathos and passion found in the handsome princes, real life brothers Aaron (doubling as the Wolf) and David Aubrey, are awesome experiences to behold. Jessica Quindlen as Red Riding Hood is everything the role requires and more. She is bubbly, deliciously melodramatic, and a pure delight on stage. It would be a misstep to overlook the supporting roles of Florinda and Lucinda, the evil step sisters, played by Lisette Herrera and Angie Alley respectively. Rapunzel, as presented by Leah Tuttle, is comical and perfectly insane. Dennis Salazar is an enigma as the Mysterious Man, and Jim Myers is beyond comparison as the Narrator.
William Stafford's direction is clear and precise. He allows for a perfect balance of chaos and order, whimsical yet serious. And that is exactly what we see on stage. Into the Woods has a massive amount of detail and I applaud Mr. Stafford for his attention to the minute. It is in this play where the minute becomes monumental. The staging is flawless and the multiple scene changes happen seamlessly. Kudos to stage manager Nathan Herrera as well. Musical direction by Shelly Andes is impressive given the nature of the music and the performance by the live orchestra.
One never knows what could happen in the woods. It's an adventure, scary and exciting, rife with danger and promise, one never leaves the woods the same. It is when we are in the woods, chasing what we wish for, that we find ourselves along the way. Getting what we asked for can either become a dream come true or a nightmare we must dare to travail. We learn that by stepping off the straight path, we can find the most beautiful flowers while risking coming across hungry flesh eating wolves. Anything can happen in the woods. Go to Into the Woods and find out for yourself all that the wonders that the woods can hold.
Musical Theatre Southwest's production is at their black box space on Domingo St. near the Fairgrounds. They perform Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 4 through April 27. You can call their box office at (505) 265-9119 or visit musicaltheatresw.com.