“INTO THE WOODS”
Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Providence College’s Theatre Department’s closing musical at Angell’s Blackfriar’s Theatre is “Into the Woods” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine. It opened on Broadway on November 5, 1987 and ran for 764 performances, starring Bernadette Peters as the Witch and Joanna Gleason as the Baker’s Wife. In Sondheim and Lapine’s fractured fairy tale musical , a baker and his wife embark on a quest to reverse a curse put on them by the witch next door. Along the way they meet the ambivalent Cinderella, an aggressive Red Riding Hood, a rebellious Rapunzel, a too-trusting Jack, and a pair of not-so-princely Princes. But when everyone’s wishes are granted their self centered wishes come back to haunt them. Eventually they learn a poignant lesson about working together, the stories we tell children and the real meaning of “happily ever after.” Director Jim Calitri infuses new life into this music with his keen insight with topnotch musical direction by Lila Kane and inventive choreography by Katrina Pavao. Their combined efforts produce a strong musical with the first act being light and fluffy while the second act reaches out and grabs you with its power and poignancy.
Jim not only directs the show but blocks and stages the numbers wonderfully. He obtains the comedy and pathos these roles demand. Lila brings out the best vocals from these students. She plays lead keyboards and directs a 7 piece orchestra. Katrina’s dance numbers include the movement of the whole cast during the opening “Into the Woods” sequence, the 2 wolves dance with Red Riding Hood, Cinderella’s mother dance and the finale of both Acts. The scenic design is by Trevor Elliott while the multitude of gorgeous costumes are by David Costa Cabral. The main character running in and out of the Cinderella, Jack in the Beanstalk and Baker and his wife scenes is the witch played splendidly with high energy by gorgeoous blonde, Joey Michelle Macari. She brings a lot of depth to the role not only with the comic moments but in the dramatic ones, too. Her first number is about the vegetables the Baker’s father stole in her garden. Joey handles the tongue twisting lyrics with ease, annunciating everyone of them with ease. The Witch only shows warmth to her adopted or rather stolen daughter, Rapunzel. Joey’s songs include “Our Little World” where she sings of life in the tower, “Stay With Me” where she wants Rapunzel to stay in the tower and “Witch’s Lament” after the Giant kills her daughter. However it is her eleventh hour number which stops the show with power and punch called “Last Midnight” with her stirring rendition which doesn’t leave a dry eye in the theatre. Joey delivers a tour-de-force performance in the role of the Witch.
Teddy Kiritsy and Courtney Olenzak as the Baker and the Baker’s wife perform many comic bits in the first act where they must find four things to break the witch’s spell including a white cow. “Maybe They’re Magic” and “It Takes Two” are their lighthearted numbers in Act 1. They have many clever antics to enliven the proceedings but the depth of their acting comes through in the dramatic moments in the second act. Teddy’s dramatic songs are “No More” with his father and “No One is Alone” quartet where he comforts Jack about his mother’s tragic death. Courtney’s are “Moments in the Woods” after her tryst with Cinderella’s Prince and “No One is Alone” at the end of the show. The audience is left in tears at their heartfelt renditions of these numbers.
Playing the role of Cinderella is pretty brunette, Jennifer Dorn who has a strong soprano voice. She is excellent as she yearns to go to the ball throne by the King. Some of her numbers include “On the Steps of the Palace” where the prince snagged her slipper to find her at last and in the poignant “No One is Alone” as she comforts Red on the death of her grandmother and mother by explaining their spirits will always be with her. Red Riding Hood is well played by Elizabeth Jancsy. She buys bread and sweets for her granny but devours them before she gets there. Her encounter with the wolves turns into a dynamic dance number in “Hello Little Girl” and she shines in her solo “I Know Things Now.” She becomes more blood thirsty after she and granny skin the wolf and she carries a knife with her the rest of the show. The lesson she learns is that you must be careful what you wish for. Bryan Sabbag plays the dimwitted Jack wonderfully. His comic quips are hilarious including “I have a harp and cow for a friend now.” Bryan displays his voice in “I Guess this is Goodbye” when he sells his beloved Milky White and in “Giants in the Sky” when he learns you shouldn’t steal from others because there will be consequences for your actions.
Jonathan Coppe commands the stage as the Narrator. Thomas Edwards as the Mysterious man who is hiding a secret from the Baker and the audience, too. Daniel Carroll as Cinderella’s Prince and Steven Sawan as Rupunzel’s Prince steal many a scene as these pompous, royal siblings. They both look so much alike you’d swear they were related to each other. They stop the show with my favorite song “Agony” where they are suffering in Act 1 by not getting the girl and in Act 2 because they are married to these same women. Their acting is terrific as they explain “Royalty can’t make up its mind.” William Oser is a hoot as Cinderella’s constantly drinking father as well as one of the hungry dancing wolves. Michael Izzo, a marvelous dancer is the other wolf who stalks Red and dances up a storm while doing so. Crystal clear voiced soprano Gabriella Sanchez is excellent as Rupunzel who is trapped in the tower by her evil adopted mother. Her voice is perfect in “Our Little World” and does a great job as she has a major meltdown in Act 2. Catherine Capolongo is a hoot as Jack’s cantankerous mother. So for a thoroughly enjoyable rendition of this difficult Sondheim musical, be sure to catch “Into the Woods” at Blackfriar’s Theatre before they leave the woods for good. Tell them Tony sent you.
INTO THE WOODS (7 to 23 April)
Providence College, Blackfriars Theatre, Eaton St., Providence, RI
1(401)865-2218 or www.providence.edu/theatre