Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 9, 2016

Into the Woods

Opera House Players, Broad Brook, CT
through May 22, 2016
by Michael J. Moran

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, “Into the Woods” made its Broadway debut in 1987, winning Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book. A mashup of several classic fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, it has been produced locally and regionally more often than almost any other Sondheim show, and it inspired the 2014 film.

The large cast of familiar characters makes “Into the Woods” a great ensemble piece, and artistic director Sharon FitzHenry has assembled a marvelous cast of singing actors for this production. Lindsay Botticello brings a clarion voice and sharp characterization to the central role of the witch, who has cast a spell on her next-door neighbors, a baker and his wife, so that they can never have children. A quest she sends them on to reverse the spell sets the plot in motion. 

Michael Graham Morales is vulnerable and sensitive as the baker, and Nikki Wadleigh touching and resourceful as his wife. Among the characters they meet as their quest leads them “into the woods” are: Little Red Riding Hood, brightly played by Kellie Comer; Jack, of beanstalk fame, played with youthful innocence by Randy Davidson; and Cinderella, invested with growing maturity by Chelsea Kelle.

In smaller roles, Gavin Mackie and Tim Reilly are hilarious as the preening princes, making both versions of their big number, “Agony,” a hoot. Gene Choquette is versatile as the narrator/mysterious man. Anna Giza is haughty as Cinderella’s stepmother, and Aileen Merino Terzi and Jen Augeri entertainingly klutzy as her stepsisters. Musical highlights include Wadleigh’s tender “Moments in the Woods,” Botticello’s powerful “Last Midnight,” and Morales’ heartrending “No More.”

The set design by Francisco Aguas and Dawn Bird is ingeniously simple and flexible. Choreography is uncredited but clever and imaginative, especially when most or all of the 19 cast members are on stage during the ensemble numbers. And musical director Bill Martin leads a finely-tuned and impressively larger-sounding band of three.

This brilliant production will appeal to thoughtful musical theatre audiences of all ages.