It’s a shame Fiasco Theater’s Into the Woods at Proctors was such a limited engagement–I do wish the energy, joy and creativity of the production could have been enjoyed by more people. But how lucky those of us were that caught it while it was here!
Most people have seen the production by now, or watched the 2014 film, but for the few who haven’t, a quick recap—James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s musical has some of your fairytale favorites (Rapunzel, Cinderella and her evil stepsisters, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.) living at the edge of a dark and forbidding wood. Through intertwining stories—some magical, some not—they all enter the woods for different reasons and on different quests, running into each other along the way. Just like real life, very few of them get a happily ever after.
The production was a combination of steampunk and arts and crafts, which sounds somewhat discordant but actually worked very well. Both sides of the stage had a twisted tower made of pianos; the backdrop was criss-crossed ropes, indicating the woods. The props, costumes and musical instruments were all on stage as the audience entered the theater; the actors who weren’t part of the scenes played the instruments. Most actors played multiple characters. It was the adult version of children playing out of a prop trunk; a glorious mess that came together beautifully.
It’s hard to pick a standout in the cast. Laurie Veldheer’s Cinderella had the energy and the vocal prowess the part required, plus a scrappy aura about her that had the audience almost immediately on her side. Lisa Helmi Johanson, doing serious double duty as Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel, made it impossible to take your eyes off her when she was onstage; not only did she have a wonderful voice, but her characterizations of the two young women were crisp, clear and strong, with excellent comedic timing. And talk about comedic timing—Darick Pead, who played a number of characters, stole the show as Milky White. The cow is often just a wooden cow on a tow rope, so kudos for the decision to have an actor in the role. Pead got the most laughs of the show just for the tenor of his various moos.
It’s often difficult to reimagine a show that’s been produced as often as this one has—the show first opened in 1986—so to let some fresh air into a beloved show is a wonderful thing. And for anyone who wasn’t in love with the movie, you’ll be glad to hear that a number of parents were there with their children, introducing them to the theatrical version for the first time since they’d already seen the film—and anything that gets children into live theater is one in the win column for me.
For anyone that missed this production, Schenectady Light Opera Company’s production of Into the Woods will be running from March 10-19–we’re looking forward to seeing their version, as well.
Into the Woods, by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, Fiasco Theater at Proctors, Feb. 4.