SMITHFIELD — Come along on a magical journey Into the Woods where fairy tales merge and giants wreck havoc on everyone’s happily ever after. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, Into the Woods won three Tony Wards in 1988 and has become a favorite musical of an entire generation of theatre kids. Adapted into a movie in 2014 with an all-star cast, a new generation of kids has been raised watching this dark fairy tale filled with catchy songs and love ballads. The Four Season’s Theatre Company in Smithfield does not disappoint with a visually rich and musically talented show.
Into the Woods is a fairytale mash up of the Baker and his Wife, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstock, Cinderella, and Rapunzel. Throughout the show, the characters from each story cross paths in the woods and help each other to find their happily ever after. However, they realize that sometimes the happily ever after that they dreamed of sometimes is not “so happy” any more. Meanwhile, the wife of the giant that Jack slew climbs down another beanstalk to seek revenge while creating paths of destruction on the fairytale kingdom.
Directed by Jonathan Rash, the entire cast worked really well together as they all starred in their respective roles. The Baker (played by Dallin Hendry) was a great headliner for this ensemble cast, showing his taking leadership of the group who were lost in the woods. Dallin Hendry also showed the depth of his character, as the Baker expressed his doubts about being a good father due after being abandoned by his own father when he was a child. The Baker’s Wife (played by Baylie Hendry) was breathtaking with her energy as she belted out “If the end is right, it JUSTIFIES the beans,” in the song “Maybe They’re Magic.”
Lauren Kian played a spectacular Witch, as she rapped her story during the Prologue and held onto the “S” for a long time. Her witchy cackles and screams were haunting. Kian’s magical transformation from a hag into a beautiful enchantress was fascinating. Unfortunately, Kian’s microphone was malfunctioning for most of the show; yet, her powerful singing voice was able to carry most of her lines and lyrics to the back of the theater where I was seated. Kian sang “Last Midnight” beautifully with bewitching brilliance in her voice and playful irritation as she flung the beans around the stage.
Unlike many local productions, Little Red (played by Jessica Christensen) and Jack (played by Tanner Doyle) were portrayed by adults, not children. However, this directorial decision change worked, as their childlike costuming and acting complemented their talented singing that may be hard to get from younger actors. Amanda Madsen played Jack’s mother played, and was captivating as she ran in screaming “There’s a giant in my backyard!” and bemoaned the assumed death of her son.
Singing one of the best male duets in musical theatre, Dallin Clark (as Cinderella’s Prince) and Nathan Scott (as Rapunzel’s Prince) playfully sang “Agony” as they each tried to outdo one another in their woes of being a prince and courting a maiden who is either running away or unreachable.
A standout prop from the night was a large puppet of Milky White the cow. Operated by Logan Kelley, the puppet had an expressive face with large eyelashes and disjoined midsections, eluding to ribs and bones sticking out of the old cow. Kelley played the expressions and movements of Milky White with great comic timing.
Kody and Kim Rash enhanced their costume designs with many details that made the characters come to life. For example, the detailing on Little Red’s costume was beautiful; the layers of her skirt adorned with ruffles and bows truly made the character into a little girl whose grandma and mother take time to dress her beautifully. The Wolf’s costume was phenomenal. The fancy black and gold stripped Elizabethan breeches and doublet alluded to a fairy tale wolf who is smart, crafty, and stylish. The full wolf mask with matching grey fur hood sticking out of his jacket, coupled with the lupine feet on stilts, created a seamless animal costume that was very believable and towered over Little Red Riding Hood — making her look even more like a little girl.
The set was created by Lineset Design and Fabrication, with tall wooden lattice towers that were able to move around the stage. Accented with panels of fake topiary, the modern look worked well to portray not only the tall trees in the forest, but also towers and castles. Many unique lanterns hung from the rafters and were randomly placed throughout the lattice set. A large giant’s head puppet was lowered from above and was covered in many varieties of green fake plants created a giant that resembled Te Fiti from Moana.
Into the Woods is often seen as a family show, but the dark comedy may not be suitable and understood by all ages. Children may just be fascinated with the fairy tale stories and have some questions for their parents after the show. Additionally, Lapine’s book is highly intricate at times. I overheard some elderly women stating that they got lost with the plot during the second half of the show as the storyline derails from the traditional fairytales.
Overall, Into the Woods at Four Seasons Theatre Company delivered a really great fairy tale interwoven with Sondheim’s dark comedy and themes. I recommend Into the Woods for anyone looking for an enchanting evening filled with great musical talent and acting. Yet be careful! “Sometimes people leave you halfway through the woods,” and sometimes things in the woods are not always as they seem.