Monday March 25 11:51 pm

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

"Into the Woods" - Review by Alan Bresloff

MTW-IntotheWoods.jpg

The basic idea of the story is just that simple. All of the characters wish for something they do not have and are willing to do whatever is asked of them to get what they want. They are greedy, selfish, wanting and for the most part “not caring”. In this play with a book by James Lapine (Sondheim and Lapine are a perfect match) and the music and lyrics by Sondheim, they learn the consequences of getting their way. They get their wishes and attain their quests, but at a price! As there always was in a Grimm Tale, there are morals to these stories about Red-Riding Hood (adorably played by Cecilia Iole), Cinderella (Kelly Britt is divine), Jack (of Beanstalk fame, played to perfection by Christopher Ratliff), and of most importance for this story, the Baker (Daniel Tatar could not be more perfect) and the Baker’s Wife (Alexis Armstrong is terrific!)

Of course, there is The Witch ( an incredible job by Michelle Jasso, taking on a role that was made famous by non other than Bernadette Peters and making her, her own) who is the cause of all that happens in bringing this piece together. Oh yes, there is our Narrator, The Mysterious Man ( James Harms, as always is perfect for these roles). One can see that this cast truly understands Sondheim as evidenced by the handling of songs such as “Into The Woods” ( you might find yourself humming this ditty for the ride home, or for days to follow), “No One is Alone”, “It Takes Two”, “Stay With Me”, “Last Midnight” and many others. Listen carefully to the words and you will see just how clever Sondheim is!

Here is where I take my hat off to the entire ensemble: Anne Marie Lewis (Jack’s Mother), Katherine Condit (as Cinderella’s Step-Mother), Caitlyn Glennon (Florinda), Evelyn Finne (Lucinda), Bob Sanders (Cinderella’s father), Sara Sterm (Cinderella’s “ghostly” mother and Red’s Grandmother),Benjamin Sprunger (as The Wolf-his “hello Little Girl” is brilliant and as Cinderella’s Prince), Sarah Wasserman (Rapunzel), Maxwell J. DeTogne (Rapunzel’s Prince), Anthony Whitaker (Steward), Rebekah Rawhouse (voice of the Giant) and Rachel Wagner and Teaira Burge as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Great casting!

Music Theater Works is known for their use of a full orchestra for their productions and hearing Sondheim’s music played under the leadership of Roger L. Bingaman and his 26 musicians is wonderful. The choreography by Clayton Cross is very fitting of the type of show, more movement than dance and well done. The set( Christopher Rhoton) is clever and simply stated, but of greater importance truly makes us feel that we had our “Moment in the Woods”. The lighting (Andrew H. Meyers) and the sound (Aaron Quick) as well as the fabulous costumes (Jesus Perez and Jane DeBondt) are as usual, of the highest standards.

I suppose the only negative about this production is that the Greater Chicago are audiences only have a short time to get to Cahn Hall in Evanston to do so. The production will run only thru December 31st with performances as follows:

12/26 at 2 p.m.
12/28 8 p.m.
12/29 2 and 8 p.m.
12/30 2 p.m.
12/31 2 p.m. Happy New Year

Tickets start at $34 and are available by calling 847-920-5360 or at www.MusicTheaterWorks.com

The Cahn Auditorium is on the campus of Northwestern University at 600 Emerson Street. There is a public garage just one block South on Chicago Avenue