This is the year of fine performances of Steven Sondheim’s master works by local groups. A first class SWEENEY TODD from Playcrafters and now a spectacular rendering of INTO THE WOODS from Methacton Community Theater. The level of talent in both was well above the expected performance of these difficult and so worthwhile pieces of musical theater. They are challenging in every aspect, and it’s a pleasure to see them done so well.
INTO THE WOODS has most of the fairy tales we grew up on happening at the same time. Act one ends in “happily ever after”. Act two says “not necessarily” In act one we find many people learning things that they didn’t know before. Sondheim peppers act two with messages—“careful the things you say—children will listen”; “children can turn from something you love, to something you lose”; and most of all “wishes come true, not free”.
All this set to complicated music with brilliant lyrics. To do it right is a daunting task. MCT did themselves proud. The cast is uniformly excellent. Each character is etched as a complete person and sung very well. There isn’t a weak link anywhere. There is such a surfeit of talent that parts that are traditionally doubled are played individually.
To mention all the stand out performances would take up much more space than this reviewer could expect the reader to sift through. They were all that good.
Director Deb Schrager has added some excellent touches. Having the cow, Milky White, played by a young woman, for instance gave an expert addition to the comedy. Schrager mined the dialogue for every possible nuance, and maintained the pace at a fine clip. Choreographer Sally Rothschild had the cast movements perfectly suited to the concept.
The set designed by Bob Shindle and constructed by Harvey Perelman were a wonder in and of itself. They never hindered the progress of the show and, in fact, were a definite plus.
Music Director Erin Toscani had full control of the excellent orchestra which gave full measure to the use of counter motifs in the orchestration.
The usually competent Tom Dinnella’s lighting was outstanding in focusing the audience’s attention. Special kudos to Ray Disandro who added immeasurably to the stage action with accurately appropriate sounds.
This is community theater at its finest. Don’t miss it.