Saturday December 16th 2017

“Into The Woods”

It has been awhile since I have enjoyed a production at The Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights, and to be honest, I went tonight, to see one of my VERY favorite Sondheim shows, “Into The Woods”, thinking I would be disappointed. Guess what? I was not! In fact, I was utterly surprised to see that director Robin M. Hughes, has indeed captured the true essence of what Sondheim  (music and lyrics)and  James Lapine (book writer) were after. A dark comedy featuring many of the Grimm Fairy Tale characters along with the “Baker and His Wife” all “wishing” for something!

Yes, the Baker and His wife (well -played by Ryan Stajmiger and the adorable Kate Staiger) are wishing for a child. It is the curse that their neighbor has placed on them, the “witch” (a dynamic portrayal by Kelsey Burd, who is very close to the original Bernadette Peters in vocal range and spirit- welcome to Arlington Heights!) as revenge on the Baker’s father taking some of her beans from her precious garden was cursed in that his son could never have children. Turns out that she will “reverse the curse” but in order to do so, the Baker must go “Into The Woods” and bring her back four items.

It turns out that all of the items are in the woods. One of them is the cow as white as milk- turns out that Jack ( deftly handled by Ethan Warren) and his mother ( Ana Maria Alvarez) have such a cow, but she has sent Jack to market to sell “Milky Way” so they can buy food and get heat. Meanwhile,  Little Red Riding Hood , who has the cape as red as blood (a sparkling  and bubbly Anna Segatti ) has loaded up on baked goods and is off to her Grandmother’s house (Granny is played by Michelle Hackman, who also does a splendid job as Cinderella’s deceased Mother and the voice of the Giant). Along the way, she meets the Wolf , of course (played to perfection by Alexander Johnson, who also portrays Cinderella’s Prince Charming).

It might be difficult to keep up on all the characters, but there was a sister born to the parents of the Baker, who was taken and raised by the Witch. Her name, Rapunzel (the dainty  Kim Green) who also has a Prince ( Benjamin Klien). The two sibling Princes are , as it turns out, philanderers seeking new maidens throughout the play. Let’s see! Who am I forgetting? Oh, yes! Cinderella (the beautiful and vivacious Nicole Arnold, who has a wonderful voice ) and of course, her step-mother (Kara Schoenhofer) and two step-sisters, Florinda ( Marissa Williams) and Lucinda (Allyssa O’Donnell) and of course her father (Kent Joseph). Huge cast, but solid!

There is one more character, who in reality is several, and here my friends is the weakest link in a play that was very well cast by Hughes. Ron Turner is very weak as the Narrator/mysterious old man/who in reality is the Baker’s father. I really was hoping that he would have had some more energy and if so, would have made the production even more enjoyable (probably an extra star as well). But, happily, I am now excited to see the rest of what will be offered at The Metropolis Performing Arts Centre this season and will be glad see them.

If you have never been to this theater located in downtown Arlington Heights, it is an intimate space with an open stage. For this production Adam Liston designed a stage with levels that was interesting. I was a bit confused about all of the items under the higher level stage and why we were seeing them. Almost seemed like storage space and someone uncovered it by accident. Distracting to say the least.

Chelsea Lynn’s lighting is solid and Marc Beth’s sound effects were not truly needed with the exception of the Giant. Rachel S. Parent did a nice costuming job and  Rachelle “Rocky” Kolecke’s props were dynamite! Lena Elanine Whittingham handled the fight/violence design and the choreography was done by Jennifer Cupani. The musical direction by Ken McMullen, who also conducted the seven musicians was extraordinary. Sondheim’s music is not always easy, and being the wordsmith he is, performers often find it difficult to have their lyrics catch up to the music. This cast was terrific! This is one of those musicals where the music tells the story and thus not many songs are ones that people remember (except for me, of course), but “Children Will Listen”, “Stay With Me” and “No More” are probably the most memorable. Of course, “Into The Woods” will stick in your mind for about five days after seeing the show, but will also bring a smile to your face. The story is dark, but in many ways, there is a “happy Ending”!

“Into The Woods” will continue at The Metropolis Performing Arts Centre located at 111 West Campbell Street in Arlington Heights thru November 4th with performances as follows:

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 847-577-2121 or online at www.MetropolisArts.com

There is lots of free garage parking, and downtown Arlington Heights is loaded with quality dining at very affordable prices. Keep an eye on this venue. It appears to be on the rise!

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Into The Woods”.

 

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