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Into The Woods

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shes are powerful things, but what happens after "happy ever after?" In Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and James Lapine's (book) fabulously fractured musical fairy tale we find out. Familiar characters and their stories?Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack and the Giant (from that one about the beanstalk)?are woven around a new tale concerning a baker and his wife who discover they're childless as the result of a witch's curse. The only way to break the spell and get their wish (a child) is to go into the woods and collect a specific item from each of the other characters before three midnights have passed. Of course, the others have their own wishes, as well, and Act One is about everybody getting what they wished for. Act Two, then, is the dark side of "happy ever after."Jules Aaron directs the Performance Riverside production of this glorious musical, in which Stan Chandler (the Baker) and Kirsten Benton (the Baker's Wife) epitomize a critic's wish come true. They are powerful, emotional performers not afraid to go on a journey and show us every difficult, joyous, confusing step of the way. Chandler is particularly moving near the end as he struggles with the changes in his life after getting his wish. Benton gets to show off her quirky sense of humor, as well as her gorgeously expressive voice, as her character faces unexpected challenges of her own. Lindsay Martin, as the ultra-resourceful Little Red Riding Hood, and Craig Fleming, as the Narrator/Mysterious Man, also provide bright spots in the show.One wished for more, though, from Tracy Lore's fairly one-noteish turn as the witch. She's got the anger, but she misses deeper levels of frustration and irritation. And through no fault of her own, she's put at a disadvantage by having to wear a Bernadette Peters-like wig that makes it even more difficult not to invite comparisons with that idolized originator of the role. On a technical point, her transformation was pre-indicated when she walked onto the stage with her face covered by the hood of the cape. The power of that magical moment was also lost in so much fog effect that it was hard to see what had happened to her.Paul Green comes off as too immature to play the lascivious Wolf. He does better with Cinderella's charming (not sincere) Prince, but his Wolf lacks any rawness or deep sexual hungerings. His voice is pitched too high to impart any true menace, and he relies almost entirely on Lee Martino's suggestive choreography to convey character. But in all fairness, he was also saddled with a seriously malfunctioning body mike. Terrible sound problems plagued the performance and affected several actors (mikes going in and out, screechy feedback, unstable volume), but Green had the misfortune to bear the brunt of it on opening night.William H. Morse III's storybook forest scenic design was superbly amplified by Steven Young's dusky twilight mood lighting. And Mela Hoyt Heyden's colorful costumes seemed born from the pages of a book of fairy tales."Wishes may bring problems such that you regret them/Better that though than to never get them?" sings the company in "So Happy." At that point, spells have been broken, prosperity has replaced poverty, and true love has been found. Then it's into the woods again. Just like in real life (and on the stage). And you wish for the best.Wishes are powerful things, but what happens after "happy ever after?" In Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and James Lapine's (book) fabulously fractured musical fairy tale we find out. Familiar characters and their stories?Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack and the Giant (from that one about the beanstalk)?are woven around a new tale concerning a baker and his wife who discover they're childless as the result of a witch's curse. The only way to break the spell and get their wish (a child) is to go into the woods and collect a specific item from each of the other characters before three midnights have passed. Of course, the others have their own wishes, as well, and Act One is about everybody getting what they wished for. Act Two, then, is the dark side of "happy ever after."Jules Aaron directs the Performance Riverside production of this glorious musical, in which Stan Chandler (the Baker) and Kirsten Benton (the Baker's Wife) epitomize a critic's wish come true. They are powerful, emotional performers not afraid to go on a journey and show us every difficult, joyous, confusing step of the way. Chandler is particularly moving near the end as he struggles with the changes in his life after getting his wish. Benton gets to show off her quirky sense of humor, as well as her gorgeously expressive voice, as her character faces unexpected challenges of her own. Lindsay Martin, as the ultra-resourceful Little Red Riding Hood, and Craig Fleming, as the Narrator/Mysterious Man, also provide bright spots in the show.One wished for more, though, from Tracy Lore's fairly one-noteish turn as the witch. She's got the anger, but she misses deeper levels of frustration and irritation. And through no fault of her own, she's put at a disadvantage by having to wear a Bernadette Peters-like wig that makes it even more difficult not to invite comparisons with that idolized originator of the role. On a technical point, her transformation was pre-indicated when she walked onto the stage with her face covered by the hood of the cape. The power of that magical moment was also lost in so much fog effect that it was hard to see what had happened to her.Paul Green comes off as too immature to play the lascivious Wolf. He does better with Cinderella's charming (not sincere) Prince, but his Wolf lacks any rawness or deep sexual hungerings. His voice is pitched too high to impart any true menace, and he relies almost entirely on Lee Martino's suggestive choreography to convey character. But in all fairness, he was also saddled with a seriously malfunctioning body mike. Terrible sound problems plagued the performance and affected several actors (mikes going in and out, screechy feedback, unstable volume), but Green had the misfortune to bear the brunt of it on opening night.William H. Morse III's storybook forest scenic design was superbly amplified by Steven Young's dusky twilight mood lighting. And Mela Hoyt Heyden's colorful costumes seemed born from the pages of a book of fairy tales."Wishes may bring problems such that you regret them/Better that though than to never get them?" sings the company in "So Happy." At that point, spells have been broken, prosperity has replaced poverty, and true love has been found. Then it's into the woods again. Just like in real life (and on the stage). And you wish for the bes

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