OREM — Into the Woods, while already well-known for its creative spins on common fairy tales (with a book written by James Lapine and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim), takes on a new life at SCERA. The play is smart, twisted, and extremely entertaining. However, the already classic musical grows to new heights at the SCERA Center for the Arts.

Show closes October 7, 2023.

Many may be familiar with the 10-minute long opening number of the show. It is a complex and difficult song for actors, and especially so when not working with a live orchestra that can pause for applause and acting choices. However, the SCERA’s cast was fantastic at keeping on time with the musical tracking and staying true to the characterization in the script. Within the first ten minutes, I was captivated by these actors’ talents and ready to see more. 

Another aspect of the show that caught my attention was the set. The scenic design, by Chase Ramsey who is also the director, was remarkable. Ramsey’s set is covered in greenery and laced with books. It utilizes a compelling blend of manmade structures (such as columns and bookshelves) and natural elements (such as plants and vines). Instead of the characters venturing into the woods, the woods were a part of the world all around them. This is highlighted in the storybook paintings and turf across the entire bottom of the stage, as well as a beanstalk that grew onstage!

Rian Gordon as the Baker’s Wife and Marshall Lamm as the Baker. Photo by Rachael Gibson.

The lighting design, by Elizabeth Griffiths, also greatly contributed to the visual appeal of the show. The dream-like lighting was accomplished with a variety of light sources, including hand-held lanterns, twinkly lights spread across the entire stage, large hanging lamps, and dazzling spotlights. The mix of lighting choices and the show’s deliberate use of fog immersed the audience within the spooky woods. Additionally, the lighting helps to establish the different places that characters are in the world of the play, important for scenes when the show’s large cast was all on stage at once. With the combination of set and lighting, at times I felt transported, as if I was sitting with angelic Cinderella or being chased by the terrifying wolf. 

Into the Woods has a large cast of main characters. Each actor performed to their fullest ability, showing no reservation in the lengths they would go physically, vocally, or theatrically for the sake of the play. Ramsey cleverly utilizes his actor’s skills to create a lively rendition of these abnormal fairy tales. The blocking is energetic and utilizes all parts of the tall set. 

Lauren Pope as Cinderella. Photo by Rachael Gibson.

Lauren Pope as Cinderella has a simply angelic voice. She brings a vulnerability to the self-doubting princess that is compelling to watch. And Pope is not afraid to fall down a flight of stairs in her heels and ball gown. Cole Hixson carries himself with boyish charm as Jack. Hixson and Shannon Follette (who plays Jack’s cow Milky White) brightly depict the deep friendship of a boy and his pet. 

Marshall Lamm and Rian Gordon as the Baker and Baker’s Wife, respectively, showcase the often unspoken difficulties of marriage. In all the productions of Into the Woods that I have seen, the SCERA’s version made me discover new things in the plot, and I owe it to Lamm and Gordon’s careful understanding of the script. Additionally, Lamm is expressive and hilarious, while Gordon tenderly humanizes her character.

Cole Hixson as Jack. Photo by Rachael Gibson.

Stella Parry as Little Red Riding Hood excels with her comedic timing. The same can be said of Mariah Grace Bowman as Rapunzel. Their enchanting singing voices drew in initially, but it is ultimately their hilarious stage presence that keeps the audience watching. Speaking of hilarity, two actors embody the charming conquerors with a charisma that is magnetic: Isaac Moss as Rapunzel’s Prince and Cameron Ward as Cinderella’s Prince never failed to bring a smile on my face when they were onstage. 

Finally, Samantha Frisby as the Witch is fantastically mischievous. She expertly personifies the decrepit witch, as well as the character’s younger form in a way that made me question whether there were two actresses playing the Witch. Frisby’s strong depiction of the Witch is interrupted by small moments of deep sympathy that beautifully translate the complexities of her character. 

Samantha Frisby as the Witch. Photo by Rachael Gibson.

I recommend seeing this show and bringing the entire family. The SCERA is a family-friendly theatre that accommodates children and adults alike. I sat next to a four-year-old during the show who, while remaining focused on the events that were happening onstage, could not help but move her body. However, this was not a distraction for me, as the staging, acting, and lighting of the musical remained dynamic and attention-grabbing the entire time. 

And even with restless children being in the audience, the actors commanded attention with their performances. By the end of the second act, the audience was still for the song “No One Is Alone.” I heard sniffles throughout the theater as the actor’s voices soared in the show-stopping number. The SCERA’s Into the Woods is a show that makes its audience laugh and cry as the play explores its characters’ plight and allows them to grow. I strongly urge readers: Don’t stray from the path on your way to SCERA’s Into the Woods.

Into the Woods plays Thursdays through Fridays and Mondays at 7:30 PM through October 7 at the SCERA Center for the Arts (745 South State Street, Orem). Tickets are $12. For more information, visit scera.org.

This review was supported by a generous grant from the Orem CARE program.