The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Review – “Into the Woods” at Spreckels Performing Arts Center – by Harry Duke


Review – “Into the Woods”
at Spreckels Performing Arts Center – by Harry Duke

After a sold-out run with the Novato Theatre Company in November, Marin’s Theatre-at-Large now joins with the Spreckels Theatre Company in Rohnert Park to bring Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods to Sonoma County for a limited run. This mash-up of several of the most popular fairytales (book by James Lapine, music and lyrics by Sondheim) is a favorite of regional, community and university theatre programs. This is evidenced by another production opening in two weeks at Sonoma State University.

Into the Woods with puppet goatLittle Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella are all linked together as a childless baker (Sean O’Brien) and his wife (Alison Peltz) are sent on a sort of a scavenger hunt by a neighboring witch (Daniela Innocenti-Beem) in the hopes of removing a curse and starting a family. Act I basically follows the plotlines of the tales, but all hell breaks loose in Act II as the consequences of the characters decisions come to bear.

Spoiler alert! -  As in the original fairytales, a lot of people die. "Happily ever after" often isn't.

Stocked with some of the North Bay’s finest acting and singing talent, this production has a lot to recommend. Sondheim’s score is one of his most Sondheim-ish and the cast does a good job handling an often challenging score, as do Music Director Debra Chambliss and accompanying musicians.

There’s a great deal of humor in both the score and book that is well-played by the cast. Krista Joy Serpa is a hoot as Little Red Riding Hood, and if Karen Kizer’s (Jack’s mother) hilarious line deliveries were any dryer, the show could be retitled Into the Desert. Anthony Martinez and Cordell Wesselink have fun as a couple of charming princes (if not sincere.)

The Witch - played by Daniela Innocenti-BeemAnd then there’s Daniela Innocenti-Beem. I wonder if theatre companies have to up their insurance coverage after casting her because, more often than not, she blows the roof off the house – as is the case here.

(Side note to Artistic Directors: Would one of you please find the perfect vehicle in which to cast both Ms. Innocenti-Beem and Mary Gannon Graham? Imagine those two theatrical tornadoes together. But I digress…)

And yet, with all this quality work, by the end of the evening I was left with a somewhat hollow feeling. Good character work, good vocal work, some clever puppetry and a receptive audience made for a pleasant (if, at two hours and fifty minutes, somewhat long) evening, but by the end I felt the show was missing something.

Originally produced for a much smaller venue, I’m not sure if enough was done to take account for and fill the much larger Spreckels space. There was a “lushness” missing from the stage that, while executed in the costuming by Janice Deneau, Marie Meier and John Clancy, wasn’t filled by a sparse set design (by David Shirk) consisting of “flat” trees, which did not give the appropriate sense of darkness and foreboding one expects from a Grimm fairytale (let alone expanse or depth.) Lighting, blocking and choreography must have been modified to account for a larger stage, but it didn’t always work and sometimes felt rather odd.

What does work, and often very well, is a cast of sixteen singing storytellers delivering the message to be careful what you seek in life. You may end up getting it.

Into the Woods at Spreckels, Rohnert Park

Into the Woods

Presented by The Spreckels Theatre Company and Theatre-at-Large

through January 17

Thurs @ 7:30pm, Fri/Sat @ 8pm, Sun@ 2pm

Spreckels Performing Arts Center
5409 Snyder Lane
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
(707) 588-3400

Photos by Jonathan Bretan (from the Novato Theater production)

Harry Duke Theater reviews