by Lorie Lewis Ham
This is the second production of Into the Woods that I have seen in the last few weeks. I know I can always count on a StageWorks Fresno show to be well done, and their production of this Sondheim musical is no exception.
For those not familiar with the show, it is a musical that intertwines the plots of several of the Brothers Grimm fairytales, exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. While Act One sees the familiar characters get their “happy endings,” Act Two takes a very dark turn as we see that wishes don’t always turn out the way we want them to. Familiar characters include Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk. The story focuses a great deal on the Baker and His Wife who go on a quest to end the curse that won’t allow them to have children–a curse placed upon the Baker’s family by the Witch. The reoccurring theme of this show is be careful what you wish for.
While this production, and the one I saw at the Selma Arts Center, were both well done, you definitely see differences in the interpretation of the story. The StageWorks’ production focuses more heavily on the dark and quirky humor of the show, while Selma focused a bit more on the heart of the story. I think that’s one of the beauties of theatre, you can see the exact same shows, and yet each one is different.
Every performer in this production did an excellent job–both vocally and with the acting. Tyler Branco plays the Baker and I love his beautiful voice, especially in the song “No More.” Tyler and Hayley Galbraith (Baker’s Wife) play perfectly off each other, and were a lot of fun to watch.
My favorite characters in this show, no matter the production, are always Cinderella’s Prince (Terry Lewis) and Rapunzel’s Prince (Jordan Litz), if done well, and they definitely were here. My absolute favorite song of the entire show is their duet, “Agony.” The chemistry between these two actors is perfect, and not only were they an absolute riot, but they both have amazing voices. I would come see this show for this song alone (and it’s reprise in Act 2), if for no other reason. Terry also plays the The Wolf and is creepily evil in the Wolf’s song–very much a contrast to his charming prince.
Another of my favorite songs is the Witch’s song in the second act, “Last Midnight,” performed hauntingly by Amalie Larsen. The sweet, sad, yet hopeful song toward the end of the show, “No One Is Alone,” performed by Cinderella (Amber Lewis), the Baker, Little Red Riding Hood (Emily Miller) and Jack (Sammy Linkowski), is beautiful and sweet.
Chris Carsten as the Narrator brought a lot of fun and “character” to what could otherwise be a very simple role–he also plays a mysterious man who keeps popping up saying strange things–it isn’t until later in the show that you find out who he really is.
The set was extremely minimal, but it worked. The costumes ranged from quirky and almost steampunk, to beautiful, and there were some hilarious little bits involving the cow and the Prince’s steeds that will have you laughing in the aisles.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the title song, “Into the Woods,” that will haunt you for days to come, in a good way! I’m still humming it.
If you enjoy fairytales, but prefer them with a dark comedic twist, don’t miss StageWorks Fresno’s production of Into the Woods! Keep in mind that despite the fairytale characters, this is not a show for small children-it’s definitely not a Disney fairytale. Tickets are selling out fast so hurry! It will be performing at the Dan Pessano Theatre at 2770 E. International Ave. in Fresno, until July 19. Tickets can be purchased through their website.
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