Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 27, 2019

REVIEW: Barrington Stage Company, Into the Woods

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through July 13, 2019
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. 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 even became a 2014 film starring Meryl Streep and James Corden.

The large cast of familiar characters makes “Into the Woods” a great ensemble piece, and director Joe Calarco has assembled a diverse cast of 15 singing actors for Barrington Stage Company. The bold choice of an African-American male for the central role of the witch pays off in a winningly stylish, sharply etched performance by Mykal Kilgore that Billy Porter, of “Kinky Boots” fame, could only envy.

Having cast a spell on a baker and his wife, so they can never have children, the witch sends them on a quest to reverse the spell. Jonathan Raviv is a vulnerable and sensitive baker, and Mara Davi is touchingly scrappy as his wife. Among the characters they meet as their quest leads them “into the woods” are: Little Red Riding Hood, an amusingly entitled Dorcas Leung; Jack, of beanstalk renown, an appealingly dim Clay Singer; and Cinderella, an endearing and resourceful Amanda Robles.

In smaller roles, Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton and Pepe Nufrio (who, in a playful nod to the actor’s roots, serenades his beloved Rapunzel in Spanish) are hilarious as the preening princes, making both versions of their big number, “Agony,” a hoot. Thom Sesma is a dynamic and versatile narrator/mysterious man. Sarah Dacey Charles is haughty as Cinderella’s stepmother, and Megan Orticelli and Zoe Aarts entertainingly daffy as her stepsisters.

Musical highlights include: Singer’s powerful “Giants in the Sky;” Davi’s affecting “Moments in the Woods;” Kilgore’s tender “Stay with Me” and shattering “Last Midnight;” and a heartrending “No More” from Raviv and Sesma.

Scenic design by Brian Prather is ingeniously simple and flexible; choreography by Mayte Natalio is clever and imaginative; and musical director Darren R. Cohen leads an impressively full-sounding 10-member orchestra.

This typically brilliant BSC production will appeal to thoughtful musical theater audiences of all ages.