photo by Wide Eyed Studios
Into the Woods, directed for the Arden Theatre by Terrence J. Nolen, is theatre gold with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine. And if you’re going to see the story unfold in front of you for the very first time, I can’t think of a better cast. I see a lot of plays and there were plenty of familiar faces on this stage. All were excellent in bringing these classic musical numbers and story to the Arden audience.
The show, which premiered on Broadway in 1987 (and won Tony Awards for best score, best book and best actress in a musical) puts a twist on the most familiar fairy tale characters- Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk. Their stories, along with a baker and his wife, weave together as they navigate the woods, face a giant, interact with the royals, search of happiness, and make wishes (all with consequences, of course).
The music was so enjoyable and there is so much talent at Arden Theatre right now! I especially loved the scenes with Vanessa Sterling as Rapunzel’s Prince and Garrick Vaughan as Cinderella’s Prince. “Agony”, with the two of them as brothers, was a stand-out performance. Ben Dibble (as the Baker) and Katherine Fried (the Baker’s Wife) both beautifully performed with “No More” and “Moments in the Woods” respectively. One of the best songs to hear live was “No One Is Alone” featuring Dibble as well as Alia Munsch as Cinderella, Grace Ellis Solomon as Little Red Ridinghood, and Ellis Gage as Jack. Lastly, I loved hearing “Children Will Listen” by Tiara Greene in the understudy role of the Witch. She was absolutely incredible in every scene.
As someone who knows every song from the musical but has never actually seen a performance, I was in awe of what was in front of me. The stripped down set by James Kronzer and no frills outfits from costume designer Levonne Lindsay (overalls, casual shirts, jeans, even some Chuck Taylor’s made it to the stage) were perfect in allowing audience members to focus on the storytelling and talent, leaving everything else to the imagination. Simple props, sounds, voice inflections went a long way here too.
Come to the Arden Theatre and listen to this story. Tickets are available here. Into the Woods runs through July 10th. This is the theatre’s 15th production of a Stephen Sondheim musical; he passed away in November of 2021.