INTO THE WOODSMusic and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by James Lapine
Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center for the Arts
Musical Director –Kristin Spires
Production Stage Manager –Megan Beddingfield
Scenic Designer –Sarahi Salazar
Costume Designer –Marcus Lopez
Lighting Designer –Juan Gonzalez
Sound Designer –Mark Howard
Scenic Charge Artist –Allen Dean
Master Carpenter –Jonathan Jones
Witch –Amanda Williams Ware
Cinderella –Natalie Coca
Baker's Wife –Alden Bowers Price
Baker –Joshua Sherman
Jack –Jeremy Coca
Little Red Ridinghood –Taylor Wallis
Mysterious Man/Piggie –Clyde Berry
Rapunzel's Prince/Piggie –Anthony Coca
Rapunzel –Sarah Maria Dickerson
Wolf/Granny/Giant –Georgia Fender
Lucinda –Simone Gundy
Jack's Mother –Pamela Garcia Langton
Wolf/Steward –Kyle Lester
Milky White/Cinderella's Birds/The Harp –Aigner Mathis
Stepmother –Danielle Reboli
Florinda –Cristina White
Cinderella's Prince/Piggie –James Worley
Kristin Spires – Keyboard
Richard Gwozdz –Keyboard 2
Michael Dill –Winds
Javier Betancourt –Cello
Miriam Oddie –Viola
Helen Chalmers –Violin 1
Tess Isaac –Violin 2
Reviewed Performance: 2/22/2014
Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Into the Woodsbrings together several of the Grimm's fairy tales and shows a modern adaptation of what might have been if those tales continued in the course they had been set. The play features several iconic fairy tale characters including Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk), Rapunzel, and the princes for both Cinderella and Rapunzel. Added to these are the Baker and his wife, who are featured throughout the show.
Into the Woods premiered at the Old Globe Theatre in 1986 and premiered on Broadway in 1987. The musical won numerous Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress in a Musical. It has been revived several times, including the London revivals in 1998 and 2007 and the Broadway revival in 2002. Adam Adolfo is the director for this production, and also served as the narrator for the first act and a portion of the second act. He interpreted the original version as a play within a play, with the audience following the characters backstage and then into the woods. The way the play was blocked, however, was so that the narrator took on the role of the director in the play, while the actors played the part of the fairy tale characters.
The scenic design, as done by Sarahi Salazar, was very simplistic, though in no way detracted from the play. The back wall was covered with different pictures and advertisements for Into the Woods, creating a “backstage”feel to the production. A stairway on the right was used for exits and entrances. A raised piano on the left was also a convenient place for the actors to stand on and sing. Rapunzel's tower was also pushed on stage when necessary for her scenes. The scenic design worked well for the director’s concept, though it created an image radically different from what you’d typically expect in a fairy tale.
Marcus Lopez designed the costumes for the play, starting off with a very backstage feel with actors lounging around in street clothes. This gave the impression of them preparing for rehearsal. Costumes were slowly incorporated into the performance, giving a more storyteller feel to the scenes. I appreciated how it changed from a full on performance to a more intimate setting, where the actors could tell their story. Generally, the costumes were simple, though some were more elaborate and others were mere hints of their characters. The evil Witch had an elaborate get-up, complete with a skirt that billowed ominously about her and a mask that disfigured her face, making her even more striking and intimidating. The male Wolf had a simpler costume, yet it described his character well, with a rebellious leather jacket, ripped jeans, and a red-stained shirt, reminiscent of the blood of his meals. Lopez’ imagination used costumes to show a range of themes in the show.
Lighting Designer Juan Gonzalez made full use of the space to keep all the characters clearly visible throughout. I especially appreciated the change from cool to warm lighting at certain heightened moments in the musical. Also noticeable was the use of a red light whenever someone died, which added a fun dimension to the performances.
Sound was designed by Mark Howard. While most of the music came from the live orchestra, sound effects were added during several key parts of the musical. When Cinderella goes to her mother’s grave for advice, Howard distorted the voice of her mother’s spirit to make it other worldly. Howard also cleverly crafted the sound for the scenes involving the giants. The audience knew giants were around whenever their massive stomping steps resounded through the theater and their voices boomed out their threats. Though at times the microphones weren’t working and characters were hard to hear, the special effects were effective and enjoyable.
Amanda Williams Ware was outstanding in the role of the Witch She had a strong voice and could belt out all of her songs with an intimidating demeanor that had me cringing in my seat. I really loved Williams Ware’s presence on stage, performing like she owned it. I really enjoyed her song,“Witch’s Lament”, her voice clearly portraying her loss. Williams Ware also powerfully delivered “Last Midnight” with her haunting voice and the malicious way she moved around the stage. Overall, Williams Ware’s performance was a highlight of the production Most people know the story of Cinderella, of a young woman who lives with her very controlling stepmother and two stepsisters. Natalie Coca (who earned a COLUMN Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical Monday evening) was phenomenal in her portrayal of Cinderella, showing a character with depth and an understanding of life, who also has little patience to stand still for very long. Coca especially shined during the numbers "A Very Nice Prince" and "On the Steps of the Palace", where her strong voice and presence combined to create a heartfelt performance. Throughout the show, Coca presented a very honest character with her earnest tone and reserved disposition.
The Baker's Wife, as played by Alden Bowers Price, was enjoyable to watch, showing a woman determined to get what she and her husband wanted no matter the cost. Bowers Price knew how to perform and present her character, and commanded the audience’s attention each moment she was onstage. The way that Bowers Price was gently yet firmly pushing her husband showed that she cared for him, and her whimsical tone with Cinderella hinted at the wife’s inner desires. During “Maybe They’re Magic”, Bowers Price communicated her desire to get what the wife wanted not only through her voice but through her body language as she manipulatively moved around Jack or her husband to get what she wanted.
Joshua Sherman played the part of the Baker, who is one of the main characters that the story revolves around. Sherman played the concerned husband, spending his time trying to keep his wife safe and out of the woods, at times blocking her from entering. Yet his gentleness shone through when the Baker would wilt as his wife insisted on accompanying him. Sherman did especially well during the song "It Takes Two"; the way he interacted with the wife during this song showed an actor with a wide range of skills, one that can play the part of the caring husband, yet also portray the feeling that people have of becoming parents. While he wasn't the strongest actor on the stage, Sherman did make me care for his character.
Jack, as played by Jeremy Coca, was a very interesting character. J. Coca spoke so innocently and naively, bringing a youthful quality to the character, and one in need of protection. His expressions throughout were comical and the interactions with the other characters also showed the reason why they sought to protect him from the giant. "I Guess This Is Goodbye" was a heartfelt song between Jack and a friend and J. Coca portrayed this well, giving a heartfelt performance that had people feeling sorry for the loss he was about to face.
Little Red Riding Hood, played by Taylor Wallis, had a commanding presence on stage. I was very impressed by Wallis' never-ending youthful energy, yet nervous about her eagerness to kill the wolves. I especially liked Wallis’performance during the number "I Know Things Now." Wallis showed a strong actress that easily went from the naive young woman with a red cape and an extremely bouncy attitude to a more reserved red coat and somber expression. I especially appreciated the change in her interactions with the other characters when she grew up, since it showed the very real change that people go through in their own lives. This made her character more real for me and changed the way that the other characters onstage saw her.
Clyde Berry, Anthony Coca, and James Worley each played a Piggie and the Mysterious Man, Rapunzel's Prince, and Cinderella's Prince, respectively. As Piggies, they interacted well each moment they were on stage, showing added camaraderie and effectively lightening their scenes’ tension. In their individual roles they each had strengths and weaknesses. The two princes did fabulously well during "Agony," effectively showing their pain and longing for what they cannot have, but neither actor really stood out on stage. While their performance was comical, it didn’t do much to enhance the overall storyline of the play. James Worley showed his royalty through his strong posture and arrogant mannerisms. Anthony Coca clearly showed his excitement in pursuing Rapunzel. While these were not the strongest actors, the comedic effect to their duet ‘agony’ was very enjoyable to see, making their performance one of my favorites in the play.
Into the Woods will remind people of the stories they grew up on and their relevance to things we face today. The singing talent for this production at Artes de la Rosa was phenomenal and the live orchestra strengthened the show. It was a creative interpretation that many people will enjoy.
Artes de la Rosa at Rose Marine Theater
1440 N Main St. Fort Worth, TX 76164
Performances run through March 16th
Performances are Friday - Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 3:00 pm. General Admission tickets are $18.00. Tickets are $14.00 for seniors/students and military. For infor and to purchase tickets, go to http://www.artesdelarosa.org/ or call their box office at 817-624-8333.