By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor
Reprinted with permission from The Zebra Press, Alexandria, VA
Come for Stephen Sondheim’s sublime lyrics and tunes, but stay for James Lapine’s thought-provoking set of fairy tales, hilariously sung and often wackily acted by an uber-talented and diverse cast! In addition, though, there are also moments of heart-achingly beautiful singing.
Sondheim and Lapine discovered that if those beloved characters and tales were presented in a new way, and if dark components were added to the mix, the new “old” fairy tales would appeal to both adults and children
Stirringly directed by Peter Flynn and brilliantly choreographed by Michael Bobbitt, the actors/singers must have been asked to explore their own strengths and feelings in order to give us their best work! Rachael Zampelli as the Witch simply blew me away! Erin Driscoll as Cinderella plays her with just enough cheekiness to give Cinderella some pizazz, but her beautiful soprano on “No One is Alone” in the second act will melt your heart.
Surprises include the adorable Tiziano D’Affuso as a lively, spunky Milky White (the cow) and Christopher Mueller, who plays Cinderella’s Prince as if he were in a melodrama, with a hilarious little hop and turn before each exit. And Little Red Riding Hood (Jade Jones) is simply wonderful. Soprano Quynh-My Luu as Rapunzel does a magnificent job of wailing. The Baker and his Wife, played by Evan Casey and Awa Sal Secka, bring a reality to these roles.
David Budries, the Sound Designer makes sure every single word of Sondheim’s difficult lyrics are heard, understood and appreciated! The projections are tastefully done, but graphic enough to thrill. And William Yanesh’s strong, rich-sounding eight-piece pit orchestra never overpowers the singers.
All in all, this “Into the Woods” is a must see! And you’ll really thank me when you hear Cinderella’s Prince, when called out on his need to stray from the marital bed, proclaim what I think is the best Sondheim line of all time, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere!” Boom! I rest my case.
Performance and Ticket Information: “Into the Woods” runs now through May 22, 2019 and is recommended for ages 12 and older. Running time is 2 hours 40 minutes including one intermission. Tickets may be purchased at www.fords.org or by calling 202-347-4833.
Sara Dudley Brown is the Theatre Editor for The Zebra Newspaper in Alexandria, Va. She graduated from Rollins College with a degree in vocal music, but her most enduring love always has been and still is professional musical theatre.