`Into the Woods’ explores the dark side of fairy tales, cast shines with strong performances

5 Hatchets

Ever wonder if storybook characters have a bad day?

In Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical Into the Woods, a little reality is thrown into fairy-tale life. GW’s Departments of Music, and Theatre and Dance will perform Into the Woods this weekend.

In the first act, the storybook characters behave just as they did when the Brothers Grimm weaved their magical tales. Cinderella is tormented by two evil stepsisters, Jack, from Jack and the Beanstalk, is taking his cow to market for sale and the Baker and his wife desperately want to have a child.

These characters set out on their individual journeys, but their paths start to cross when they go into the woods.

During a dress-rehearsal performance Tuesday night, it was already evident that GW’s Into the Woods is going to be a delight on opening night.

What is first striking when you walk into Lisner Auditorium is the set design. The backdrop of the stage shows a beautifully painted forest. Three storybooks are set up on the stage and magically open when the music is cued. Already the mood is set for a fantastic evening.

Although the cast was still working out the minor details of the performance, the actors were enthusiastic and well-rehearsed. April Maddox is perfect as Cinderella. She is gifted with a strong voice that carries above the rest of the performers. In her golden slippers (they are gold here, not glass like the Disney version) she frolics through the woods, encountering the other characters.

After the Baker and his wife are visited by a witch and are told that they must collect a cow as white as milk, a red cape, a golden slipper and a yellow lock of hair, so they can have a child. The Baker’s Wife (Maggie Gallant) steals many scenes with her humor. As she tries to dupe Cinderella into forking over her slipper, she gives a strong performance. Her facial expressions are so convincing, it’s worth getting a good seat. The Baker (George Reddick) gives a subtle, yet convincing performance.

Little Red Ridinghood (Stephanie Braun) hops and skips into the woods going – as to be expected – to her grandmother’s house. She is, of course, tricked and eaten by a wolf (Fran?ois Medard). She is hilarious. After she is eaten and then saved by the Baker, she carries a knife and cops some attitude.

Rapunzel (Devin McCalla) is memorable by her soft singing as the Prince (Chad Lazar) asks Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.

The conclusion of the first act is the happy ending that you expect. But during the second act, you start to suspect that the fairy tale isn’t the whole story. A bit of reality is thrown into the storybook characters’ lives and the charm of the play is to watch them react.

The play questions the idealized stories that are told to children. The play flirts with questioning the values of modern society. After reality starts to skew the fairy-tale characters’ lives in the second act, you ask yourself if you really want to know the whole story. Often it’s best not to know the whole story. But with this performance you’ll want to stay for the whole show.

So are we better off just believing the fairy tale? You’ll have to go Into the Woods to find out.

Into the Woods will be performed Thursday though Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Lisner Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students.

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