Step Wholeheartedly INTO THE WOODS at the Footlighters Theater

by Kelly Thunstrom

INTO THE WOODS, a Stephen Sondheim piece, has always been quite a unique musical. Featuring stars of well-known fairy tales (think Little Red Ridinghood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Jack of “the Beanstalk” fame) intermingling with each other, the audience never knows who is going to show up on stage. It is truly an ensemble piece and difficult to determine the “lead” actors and actresses. Two distinct acts really do not have much to do with each other. Act One, a happy-go-lucky act, wraps up with everyone seeming to end up happily ever after (in fact, the last song of the act is “Ever After”). Before INTO THE WOODS came to Broadway, Stephen Sondheim was overheard telling audience members who got up thinking that the musical was over, that there was still another act to go. Act Two is far more intense.

Left to right - Elizabeth Cascarelli (Baker's Wife), Jason Kramer (Baker), Zach Workman (Jack) in Footlighters Theater's production of INTO THE WOODS, running in Berwyn PA through May 21.

On this sold-out opening night of INTO THE WOODS, directed by Judy Pizzi, the curtain opens on an enchanted forest. We are quickly reintroduced to famous fairy tale characters who we “think” we know so well. The musical pokes fun at these characters, namely Cinderella’s (Megan Goehring) “Dr. Doolittle” way of talking to animals and Jack (Zach Workman) just wanting a little “piggy”. Jason Kramer should particularly be congratulated for his construction of Jack’s cow (How do you get a cow to move through a forest? Put him on a skateboard, of course!) Little Red Ridinghood (Macy Davis) stops in to get some bread for her Granny (Christine Winans) from the Baker (Jason Kramer) and his wife (Elizabeth Cascarelli). Little do we know that these two seemingly inconsequential characters will become the basis of Act One.

The Witch (Lori Sitzabee) tells the Baker and his wife that in order to have a child they must go on a fairy tale scavenger hunt in the woods. They must bring her Cinderella’s shoe, Rapunzel’s hair, Little Red Ridinghood’s red cloak, and Jack’s cow. As they race through the woods gaining one thing and losing another, chaos ensues. A funny scene of Act One is when Cinderella’s prince (Greg Kasander) and Rapunzel’s prince (Nick Bryan) sing that their fairy tale women are putting them in “Agony”. However, nothing is funnier than Little Red Ridinghood and Jack trying to “one up” each other with her “wolf hide” cloak and his hen that lays golden eggs. Sondheim gets sentimental with “Stay With Me”, the Witch’s haunting plea to Rapunzel.

Act Two has a completely different storyline. In fact, an audience member could probably see either act, and think it was complete on its own. The premise is simple. We all know that at the end of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack cuts down the beanstalk to prevent the Giant from getting him. Well, hell hath no fury like a Giant’s wife scorned. She is out for revenge, and will not stop until she gets it. As the characters begin to “dwindle” (use your best guess as to why), they gang up on each other with “Your Fault”. As the time was nearing 3 hours from the start of the musical, the ending seemed to drag, but I’m sure the timing will get quicker in future performances.

Sitzabee should be commended for her seamless weaving into scene after scene and her very strong singing. I was especially impressed with Zach Workman’s portrayal of Jack as a silly little boy (It takes a lot of guts to walk out on stage in suspenders and tights), and Elizabeth Cascarelli as the Baker’s Wife. Cascarelli emits so much emotion in her face and was a pleasure to watch.

A fairy tale for adults (down to the white twinkling lights on the trees in front of the theater), Footlighters has developed a production of Into the Woods that will enchant you.

Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Directed by Judy Pizzi
April 29 – May 21, 2011
Footlighters Theater
58 Main Ave
Berwyn, PA

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