A Mercurial Romp Into the Woods
at The Met Theatre
By Pamela Wilson
LOS ANGELES, CA - Although based upon familiar Brothers Grimm’s fairytales, Into the Woods now playing at The Met Theatre in Los Angeles is not written with children in mind. However, for grown-ups it is quite an entertaining treat! The unique Stephen Sondheim music and lyrics and the book by James Lapine are sophisticated and bawdy at the same time. Director Marco Gomez fashions a briskly moving musical with many memorable moments. The intimate Met Theatre is a fine setting for the show, allowing for natural instrumental and vocal sounds.
Into the Woods’ competent crew provides delights to the other senses as well. Upon entering the theater, one gets the feel for the story’s locale through the suggestion of a forest by patterned set pieces and trailing vines designed by Kai Cofer. This is enhanced by the sounds of the woods. The sound design by Cuca Esteves succeeds with the exception of a booming but quite distorted off-stage voice. At first blush, the lighting design by Louis Trent seems uneven and almost haphazard; but as the tale goes on, one can feel the dappling of the light between the trees. This interpretation is confirmed in the saucy Little Red Riding Hood’s (Denise Emery) reflective song “I Know Things Now.” For some audience members the sense of touch also comes into play – there is good-humored interaction with the theatergoers.
The Witch (Jacqueline Joy Marcus) and the Narrator and the Mysterious Man (Coby Pfaff) move the plot along at strategic points in the story. Ms. Marcus handles her part of the demanding Sondheim score competently and provides a well defined Witch. Mr. Pfaff is an amiable Narrator and Mysterious Man, but comes across a little soft spoken.
Fine characterizations were formed by Brian Mahoney (Jack), Lisanne Walker (Jack’s Mother), and both August Stoten (Cinderella’s Prince) and Blake Hogue (Rapunzel’s Prince). The Princes’ performances are witty and outrageous! Their number “Agony” and its reprise are hilarious! Jack’s Mother’s transformation cuts to the truth with broad comedic style along the way. Mr. Hogue is completely Jack, without a doubt, the innocent, befuddled farm boy whose only friend is Milky White (Kai Cofer), a surprisingly funny version of the cow.
Other members of the cast contribute to the interwoven fairytales. The lecherous, dangerous Wolf (Shawn Cahill) is indeed intimidating! His animal nature rages in each of his scenes! Mr. Cahill plays the Wolf with abandon. The Baker’s Wife (Cristina Dohmen) underplays the role and displays a lovely voice. Cinderella’s Wicked Step-Mother (Caroline Timm), Step-Sisters (Jennifer Fenten and Juliana Johnson), Father (Andres Miranda), and the Steward (Anthony Prichard) add slapstick to the show that is well received. Rapunzel (Heidi White) makes the most of the script’s sparse lines with her comic facial expressions and vocal inflections.
Outstanding renditions of their roles are created by Rachel Prescott as Cinderella and Ehren Schweibert as The Baker. Mr. Schweibert’s Baker is right on point with his acting, and his singing is pleasant and reveals much of the Baker’s character! Ms. Prescott sings and acts the part of Cinderella exquisitely, making the part her own with rich nuances of emotion and an excellent singing style – Sondheim as Sondheim must have intended!
Director and Choreographer Marco Gomez’s attention to detail and fun makes this outing a pleasure. Adding just as much value to the production are the elements contributed by Michael Mullen, the Costume Designer; Denise Emery, the Make-up Artist; and both as the Hair Dressers. Also, a special mention must be made of the excellent orchestra and musical direction by Dolf Ramos. The score requires precise instrumental music, and this group lives up to its charge!
Casting Director Anthony Treschi has assembled a fairly broad range of talent and experience in the individuals of this cast. Happily, they all blend together to shape the audience’s experience from silly to somber. It is an evening to be enjoyed! (Come a little early as late arrivers will not be seated until intermission.) Try to catch this fairytale-with-consequences before it is gone! - Pamela Wilson
Maestro Arts and Reviews
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