It seems to be the season to go Into the Woods – Proctors just brought a tour through the area last month, and now SLOC has Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s fairy-tale musical onstage through March 19.
Sondheim’s musical brings together fairy-tale favorites (such as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and her stepsisters and Rapunzel, just to name a few) who live on the edge of a forbidding wood and enter it for various reasons throughout the show, learning lessons (some harder than others) along the way.
If Fiasco Theater’s production in February was a pared-down, somewhat punk-rock version of the show, SLOC’s version, directed by Brian Sheldon, is the opposite: very traditional and by the book. Unfortunately, a bit of imagination here would have been a good thing, a necessary thing; this version lacks the magic that the show needs to make it work.
SLOC’s production seems to suffer from a lack of direction. The actors didn’t seem to know where to go at any given moment and wandered around the stage in a confused way; lines (and props) were dropped, cues weren’t picked up in a timely fashion and many comedic moments were lost either by timing or sound problems (which plagued the evening – the microphones, through no fault of the actors, kept dropping out and dialogue and song lyrics were often inaudible.) A fog machine was utilized regularly for no apparent reason. At one point the cast would be serious and at another completely campy, or some people onstage would be campy and others serious. Michael C. Mensching, in two of his three roles, was doing what I can only describe as a mash-up of Gollum and the Green Goblin from Spider-man, and I honestly can’t understand why no one reined him in. It was a show that didn’t know what it was or what it wanted to be.
There was some serious talent on the stage, however. Eliza Figueroa has stunning vocal and acting talent as Cinderella; the last time I was lucky enough to see her onstage was in SLOC’s Ragtime in 2011, where she also stole the show, and I was so pleased to get the chance to see her act again. Erica Buda-Doran, as the Baker’s Wife, added charm and sass to the production. I haven’t seen her act locally before, and hope very much she continues gracing area stages. The part isn’t an easy one, but she carried it well, and I found myself watching her whenever she was onstage; she stayed in character throughout and was eminently watchable and enjoyable.
Adam Coons (who also played the Baker admirably) did strong work with the set design; it was spare, but beautiful, and the trees and bushes were able to be moved around quickly and easily for different looks and scenes.
There are other performances worth watching in the show, some songs that had beautiful harmonies and some genuinely touching and funny moments. My disappointment lies in the fact that this show – this very good, very powerful show – seems to have been an afterthought. With some care and work, it could have been such a win for the group, and they had the talent in the cast available to them to pull it off, had there been a firmer hand at the wheel.
Into the Woods, Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady, through March 19.