‘Into the Woods’ casts a spell on DVC

Fall Musical Review: “Into the Woods”


Katherine Hada

The cast of “Into the Woods” perform the opening musical number.

Jacob Judd, Features Editor

“Into the Woods” opened Friday night to a sold out house and thunderous applause. The classic musical could be called “Grimm’s The Avengers,” weaving numerous fairy tales together into an original story that examines the highs and lows getting your what you wished for.

The 90-minute first act could easily be mistaken for a complete piece of children’s theatre. Witty and heartwarming, the characters scurry on and offstage in pursuit of their various wishes. As they seek love, lift spells and slay giants, they remain blissfully unaware that there’s life after “happily ever after.”

However, when the audience returned to their seats, the house darkened and so too did the world of the play. As the unintended consequences of the chracters’ actions in act one come back to haunt them, they are forced back into the woods, finding them less whimsical and more foreboding than before.

Stephen Sondheim’s score is timeless and performed here by a live, 15 piece orchestra. While it’s not the kind of music that will draw more mainstream listeners, every number serves the story and the frenetic onslaught of witty lyrics keeps the audience engaged, forcing them to hang on every word.

As the baker’s wife, played by Rosie Tyler, deftly handles the show’s most challenging role. She’s funny when she needs to be but also the emotional core of the ensemble. Her final song “Moments in the Woods” is one of this production’s most winsome moments.

Daniel Cassilagio does quite a lot with the often thankless role of the evening’s narrator. His resonant speaking voice keeps the story moving, while his comic timing makes the most of the few quips the script allows him. His delivery of one particular joke involving Little Red Riding Hood nearly brought the house down.

A metaphorical puppet master for the characters, Cassilagio is also a literal puppet master onstage. Responsible for the interaction of puppet animals with human characters, his pantomime and sound effects recall the feeling of a child at play. He milks quite a few laughs from that paper-mâché cow.

The scenic design from Andrew Kaufman feels appropriately whimsical, with characters playing whole scenes in houses set atop storybooks that roll on and off stage. Various sets of trees fly in and out of view, slide on and offstage and combine with fog and lighting effects to create the sense that we’re wandering with the characters as they lose themselves in the forest.

The costumes, designed by Tara Maginnis, pop against the darker atmosphere of the set. While the more humble characters are dressed modestly, the broader characters are covered in flashy sequins and bold colors. The big bad wolf dressed as Dracula highlights his seductive yet predatory nature. Cinderella’s stepsisters wear dresses in highlighter hues as garish as their personalities. And when the evil witch reveals her true form, she feels more influenced by David Bowie than Meryl Streep.

“Into the Woods” runs through Nov. 8 at the DVC Performing Arts Center.