Classic fairy tale characters find their happy and not-so-happy endings in Lake City Playhouse’s fantasy musical “Into the Woods.”
The show, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, challenges performers and musicians with its demanding compositions and lyrics. Director Troy Nickerson has assembled a solid cast that brings out the show’s heart and humor. Many of the actors tackle the material head-on, singing their pieces with obvious joy. The feeling is infectious.
The women in this production are a force to be reckoned with. Emily Cleveland (Baker’s Wife), Madison Rasmussen (Little Red Riding Hood) and Renei Yarrow (Jack’s Mom) give strong performances. Christine Mullaly’s Rapunzel sings very sweetly in her tower. Aubrey Shimek’s Cinderella is a delight to watch and listen to, especially during “No One is Alone.” Abbey Crawford anchors the group with her portrayal of the witch and gives dimension and depth to a character who is often drawn in stories as simply evil. Crawford and Mullaly’s duets, “Our Little World” and “Stay With Me,” are beautiful and touching.
Brendan Brady plays Jack, the boy who grows the beanstalk, with energy and a clear voice. The two princes, Jess Hampsch and Quinn Johnson, are hilarious, especially during their signature song, “Agony.” Wolf Patrick McHenry-Kroetch is amusingly oily during “Hello, Little Girl.” Andrew Ware Lewis’ Baker is heartfelt throughout.
Music direction by Zachariah Baker and the performance by the small orchestra are excellent.
Act One is well-paced, with consistent vocal stylings as the characters embark on their journeys in search of a happy ending. In Act Two, however, they are not content and the timing of things, performance-wise, seems a bit off. The scene where the group confronts the giant who is terrorizing their town lacks the polish of the first act, and periodic shrill screams of some of the women are off-putting.
Sondheim’s lyrics were a challenge for the cast at times on opening night. Some of the words during “Your Fault” and Granny’s beating of the wolf, for example, were lost.
But the cast found its rhythm again by “Last Midnight.”
The Lake City production features steam-punk aesthetics with Victorian costumes and props with a mechanical motif, such as a cow with gears in its stomach and turn-of-the-century industrial elements in the backdrop. The motif added a pleasing and unique aspect to the production but did not overpower it.
The show’s message is clear: Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor, but be careful what you wish for. And if you get stuck in the woods, there is always a path out.