Wishes are granted in Village Theatre’s Into the Woods

“The cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, the slipper as pure as gold.”

These are the elements that weave together the various plots of the magical musical tale, Into the Woods, presented exquisitely by Village Theatre. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, Into the Woods tells the story of four fairytales: Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood. While each tale’s protagonist gets to tell their story, their narratives all revolve around the Baker (played in earnest by Trey Ellet) and the Baker’s Wife (played by by the incredibly winning Christine Marie Brown) who are on a quest to complete a spell to have a child.

From the first moments of the show, it is clear this is a world built on stories. Literally. The woods are made of the pages of the fairytales – floor, leaves, and branches all. Once the characters begin to travel through the woods, the set (designed by Matthew Smucker) rotates which puts the characters in a constant state of uncertainty. It adds an element of danger that is normally hard to depict onstage. The costumes, by Melanie Tayler Burgess, also mirror the changeable nature of the fractured fairytales. They are a mix of style, time period, and color, yet they do cohere to make a beautiful picture. 

With Sondheim’s artfully crafted and layered score, just singing the right notes and lyrics in the right order will get you most of the way to a beautiful production. This stellar cast has taken what he and Lapine have created and brought it to another level entirely. This is a musical that has been produced many times in a myriad of venues yet there are new shades and moments being unearthed by Director/Choreographer Katheryn Van Meter and the extremely talented cast she has at her disposal. Allison Standley as Cinderella has found an astonishing depth and nuance to a character that can often be relegated to the one-note ingenue category. Arika Matoba as Little Red Riding Hood and Rafael Molina as Jack have such a remarkable and purposefully awkward chemistry onstage that I wish I could see their Odd Couple spinoff sitcom. Mari Nelson as the Witch is extremely commanding and powerful both with her presence and vocal prowess. 

There are so many outstanding performances in this production from the principals all the way down to the America’s Next Top Model wannabe stepsisters (Marissa Ryder and Alexandria Henderson) and the ditsy Rapunzel (Molli Corcoran) I could wax on effusively forever (or at least way longer than this review will allow). Even if you think you have seen enough productions of Into the Woods, you would be wrong. This one is not to be missed.

Into the Woods is playing at the Francis J. Gaudette Theater in Issaquah through October 22nd and at the Everett Performing Arts Center from October 27-November 19. For tickets and other information visit villagetheatre.org/issaquah/into-the-woods.php.

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