Apr 25, 2018
by Alexa Chipman
Cinderella dashes through thickets in a dazzling ball gown, Jack burgles the giants atop his beanstalk, and Red Riding Hood searches for her grandmother’s house in this mashup of classic fairytale architypes. Driven by Stephen Sondheim’s rhythmic music, with brief interludes of prose from James Lapine, ‘Into the Woods’ delves into trauma and uncertainty. Cinderella assures that “No One Is Alone” as they journey through the woods, while the Witch recommends staying away from trouble in “Our Little World.”
Maryanne Scozzari’s opulent costume designs are the highlight of Santa Rosa Junior College’s production, from elegant Regency era librarians to Rapunzel’s length of flower-strewn hair and the shimmering Stepsisters. Despite technical difficulties, the projections design interacting with Peter Crompton’s set is marvelous, with cascading books, exquisite forest paths, dancing fireflies and swirling magic. Oversized books of the primary stories are propped up to create locations, with their smaller counterparts used as birds, a clever theme inspired by grand antique libraries with sweeping galleries and ornately carved wooden stacks.
‘Into the Woods’ is open to a wide range of direction styles; Laura Downing-Lee maintains a family-friendly atmosphere, downplaying amorous encounters and keeping violence cartoonish, rather than disturbing. The ensemble is uneven in quality, allowing primarily pantomime roles, such as Milky-White (Siobhan Aida O’Reilly) and Hen (Victor Santoyo Cruz) to stand out with their diverting antics. Librarians roam the tales as deer and rabbits, adding texture to scenes that are otherwise sparse. Music Direction by Justin Pyne keeps pace with the nimble “A Very Nice Prince,” the title song “Into the Woods” and lyrical choreography by Tamara Grose.
Alanna Weatherby’s Witch was uncertain until she warmed into the second act, with a strong “Last Midnight” and whirl of glittering skirts. Ella Park’s Cinderella is delightful and sincere, with a luminous, steadfast voice. Longing for a family, the Baker (Brett Mollard) and his Wife (Katie Smith) have a teasing rapport together. The Princes (Cooper Bennett and Roberto Perez Kempton) are comically rakish villains in “Agony” plotting their next conquests.
‘Into the Woods’ is a visual feast, stumbling with some of the cast and suppression of Sondheim’s darker themes in favor of a traditional, light-hearted musical.
Presented by Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts through May 6, 2018
Fri/Sat at 7:30pm, Sun at 2:00pm
Photos by Jeff Thomas
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