Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
When I entered the Golden Gate I was surprised to see no curtain and what looks like an attic with castoff furniture and an old upright piano center stage, along with old clothing and a dense backdrop of taut ropes with a suggestive look of a forest or the interior strings of a piano. At first, I thought, how dare they do this to this sparking musical? Where is the magic? Finally I got into the groove of things and started to like this radically changed version; my doubts melted away under the effects of the company's aptitude and tenacity.
Many of the actors play more than one role in this production, and some also play instruments on the stage: for example, Laurie Veldheer plays Cinderella and Granny; and Bonnie Kramer plays Cinderella's Stepmother and Jack's mother and plays the bassoon on the stage. They beautifully morph into each character with quick costume changes. Darick Pead successfully portrays Milky White the cow, Florinda, and Rapunzel's Prince without missing a beat. One of the highlights is Joshua Archer as Cinderella's Prince and Darick Peed as Rapunzel's Prince, camping it up with "Agony" which is hilarious. Patrick Mulryan who plays Jack has powerful vocal chops in "Giants in the Sky" while Anthony Chatmon II is a blast singing as the Wolf "Hello, Little Girl."
Several of the actors have just one character, like Fred Rose as the Mysterious Man, Stephanie Umoh as the Witch, Evan Harrington as the Baker, and Eleasha Gamble as the Baker's Wife. Fred Rose has an electrifying voice when saying his lines. Evan Harrington with Eleasha Gamble are harmoniously energizing singing "It Takes Two." Stephanie Umoh comes into her own in the second act as the sexy Witch, dynamically singing "Lament" and "Last Midnight."
Bottom Line: Once I got used to the staging and the Sondheim melodies without the aid of a full orchestra, I liked the production.
Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods runs through April 2, 2017, at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor Street, San Francisco. Ticket information on the phone 888-746-1799 or online at www.shnsf.com. For more information on this tour, visit www.intothewoodsontour.com. Currently playing at the Orpheum Theatre, Market Street, in previews is Hamilton. It opens on March 23 and runs through August 5.