Enchanted cast serves up skewered storybook characters
|Porchlight Music Theatre presents|
|Into the Woods|
|Book by James Lapine
Music/Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by L. Walter Stearns
Music Direction by Eugene Dizon
at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
through May 30th | tickets: $38 | more info
By Katy Walsh
What happens after happily everafter? What is next after Cinderella gets married, Jack kills the giant, Rapunzel has short hair? Porchlight Music Theatre presents the Tony Award-winning musical, Into The Woods. The baker learns his witch-of-a neighbor has cursed him with infertility. To break the barren spell, the baker is instructed by the witch to produce a red cape, golden slipper, white cow and blonde hair strands. He and his wife go into the woods to secure the hex-breaking ingredients. Among the trees, they find storybook characters struggling with their own predetermined storybook ending. Into The Woods intersects multiple fairytale classics to create non-traditional ever-afters.
The set designed by Ian Zywica establishes the woods location. Although the five piece orchestra is visibly on stage, they vanish just beyond a hill and bramble. Center stage is a large full moon-shaped screen doubling as forest projections and shadowboxing scenes (designed by Liviu Pasare). The multi-media effect adds a mystical quality for dead people speaking or being regurgitated. Although simplistic, it has all the makings for a magical forest for close encounters of the fable kind.
Under the direction of Artistic Director L. Walter Stearns, the talented ensemble cast are enchanting(!). Bethany Thomas (witch) is spellbindingly marvelous belting out the punch line and song. Her rendition of “Children Will Listen” is an inspiring memorable moment. With exaggerated prince-like debonair, Cameron Brune and William Travis Taylor are hilarious leaping in and out of scenes. Their double duet of “Agony” is suave buffoonery, as Taylor quips, “I was taught to be charming not sincere.” Although sometimes overpowered by the band, Jeny Wasilewski (Red Riding Hood) sings and skips with spunky determination. Channeling Amy Adams’ “Enchanted” performance, Rachel Quinn (Cinderella) is a wistful and underwhelmed target of the prince’s affection. Steve Best and Brianna Borger (Baker/Baker’s Wife) sing an amusing duet of marital expectations. The large cast adds harmonious voice to the finale… both of them.
Initially, Into The Woods is a clever and witty flashback to childhood stories. In a ninety minute first act, playwright James Lapine succinctly intertwines various fairytales with additions of each character’s back story. The happily-ever-after finale is amusing, satisfying and surprising. The projected words “to be continued” initiates a program book revisit. Apparently, something does happens after ‘happily ever after.’ Act II starts where the traditional fairytale ends. The results are less than whimsical with a giant’s village domination, philandering spouses, and serial killing. It’s a harsh twist for following your dream. Sure, there are adult lessons to be learned about the consequences of pursuing your heart’s desire. It’s called reality. I prefer to keep my childhood heroes in a perpetual state of Act I make believe.
Running Time: Two hours and fifty minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission
Sidekick’s Quip: A firm believer in a happy ending, Maureen describes the show with, “fanciful, charming and great voices.”
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Before the show, we grab a bite at Harmony Grill at Schuba’s, 3159 North Southport Avenue. It is two blocks from the theatre. Adjacent to its more popular and loud sibling, Schuba’s, Harmony has an intimate feel with cozy booths and shell adorned lights. Our server is delightfully welcoming and accommodating on special requests. One of the best dishes on the menu is gourmet macaroni and cheese. I add tomatoes, artichokes and chicken to make it magically delicious. There is enough leftovers to make for a happily-ever-after-meal after the show. The management also allows Maureen to park in their lot through the show. Enchanting! Another happy ending!