By Joanne Engelhardt
There’s nothing like a relatively small theater to enable audiences to appreciate the wonder, the magic and the magnificence of Stephen Sondheim’s way with words.
That’s what’s in store for anyone lucky enough to get a ticket to the current Foothill Theatre Arts production of Into the Woods, running through March 19 under the capable direction of Milissa Carey.
Several powerful voices in this version of Woods greatly add to the overall experience. Caitlin Gjerdrum, in the pivotal role of the Witch, excels in both acting and singing.
Equally strong in the vocal department is James Schott as the Baker, Alicia Teeter as the Baker’s Wife and, as the Narrator/Mysterious Man, Michael Paul Hirsch brings those characters to life in new, interesting ways.
”…the magnificence of Stephen Sondheim’s way with words.”
Into the Woods first opened on Broadway in 1987 with Sondheim providing the music and lyrics and James Lapine, the book. It won three Tony Awards that year – for best score, best book and best actress.
The story primarily involves fairy tale characters from Jack and the Bean Stock, Little Red Ridinghood, Cinderella, and Rapunzel, with several others having lesser roles.
Music and lyrics, of course, are key and here’s where Sondheim shines. The song “Into the Woods” is interwoven throughout the show, but there’s also the haunting “Last Midnight,” “Children Will Listen” and “No One is Alone.”
There are many lighter musical moments as well, including “Hello, Little Girl,” sung by the Wolf to Little Red Riding Hood,” “A Very Nice Prince,” “Agony,” and “It Takes Two.”
Carey’s production team is top-notch as well. Scenic designer Yusuke Soi had his work cut out for him, trying to fit this big musical onto the Lohman Theater stage. But he came through with flying colors, making a tree-filled woods, several homes, a bakery, Grandma’s house and a special giant tree all fit.
He even made the orchestra part of the woods. By putting them at the rear center of the stage, audience members get to watch Horsley conduct a top-notch seven-person orchestra play the score.
Soi also is responsible for the remarkable design and construction of the hapless cow, Milky White. Some productions have two people wear a cow costume to play this character, but Soi’s design is remarkably fluid. Kudos, too, to Mateo Urquidez, who easily manipulated the cow character.
In many ways, the story line involving the Baker and his wife very much wanting to have a baby is just an excuse for stringing together beautiful Sondheim songs. Just to cite two examples, read carefully and “listen” to his words, first in “Prologue Into the Woods”…
“Into the woods without regret,
The choice is made, the task is set.
Into the woods, but not forgetting
why I’m on the journey.”
And then in the song “Children Will Listen”…
Both, amazing and classically Sondheim.
Costume designer Sharon Peng did an outstanding job of creating the colorful outfits that seemed right for each storybook character as well as the ordinary people in the town. Lighting is a key part of the show as well, and Pamila Grey didn’t disappoint.
Two other production staff deserve mention: What good are song lyrics if they can’t be heard? Sound designer Andy Heller makes sure that doesn’t happen. Finally, Kayson Kordestani’s choreography works beautifully on the small stage.
To sum up: A beautifully presented production that shouldn’t be missed.
Aisle Seat Executive Reviewer Joanne Engelhardt is a Peninsula theatre writer and critic. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Production||Into The Woods|
|Book by / Music & Lyrics by||James Lapine / Stephen Sondheim|
|Directed by||Milissa Carey|
|Producing Company||Foothill Music Theatre|
|Production Dates||Through March 19th|
|Production Address||Foothill College
12345 El Monte Rd.
Los Altos Hills, CA 94022
|Tickets||$20 - $40|
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review Pick?||YES!|