Monday, June 15, 2015

theatre review - INTO THE WOODS - Valley Youth Theatre - June 12, 2015

Carly Copp, Michael Schulz, and Ally Lansdowne
Photo courtesy
"Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods is one of the cleverest musicals ever written, as well as one of the most difficult to pull off successfully....Valley Youth Theatre just opened a solid production of the musical, and the fact that the cast is composed of all teenagers shows just how stellar of an achievement that is.  Sondheim's score, which includes some of his most intricate and humorous rhyme schemes, and Lapine's book come together effortlessly in a show that has just as many comical moments as it does reflective ones. The two have seamlessly woven together familiar fairy tales that we all grew up with into a musical where the stories of Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel all interconnect with each other....The large ensemble cast is just about perfect. Michael Schulz make a charming Baker, with a sensible delivery of his lines and a lovely voice. His solo "No More" is especially touching. As his wife, Ally Lansdowne has a warm, exceptional voice and manages to bring plenty of spark to her comic lines but shows the conflicted side of her character as well. Tatum Dial makes a sweet yet sensible Cinderella, delivering a clear as a bell version of her solo song "On the Steps of the Palace."...As the Witch, Carly Copp brings the right blend of menace and comedy. She appears appropriately agitated at the humans she has to deal with and also looks quite stunning once her character experiences a transformation. Sam Primack makes for a stellar Jack. He brings a keen sense of exuberance to the part and delivers every one of his lines with the right level of care and understanding to ensure the comic ones pop and the serious ones have meaning. His excellent voice delivers an exceptional "Giants in the Sky." Alex Kirby is perfectly sweet and sassy as Little Red Riding Hood, yet also displays hints of grown-up feelings and understanding once she encounters the Wolf....Producing Artistic Director Bobb Cooper delivers clear direction of this fast-paced musical. He also ensures that his cast doesn't simply copy the recent film character portrayals or the performances of the original Broadway cast, both of which are easily available on video, instead offering some nice original performances of their own. Sondheim's score has many overlapping and intricate parts and Cooper and the cast manage their way through the score without a single hiccup, which is a huge achievement. None of the fast-paced songs are slowed down, something a less accomplished cast might resort to doing, which allows for a swift telling of the story. ...While the set is a rental from 3D Theatricals...,Tom Buderwitz's design is spectacular and shows that sometimes renting an existing set from another company, instead of building one yourself, can provide excellent results. The combination of the impressive set with the colorful and exceptional costumes from Karol Cooper, remarkable lighting from Mike Eddy, and Almir Lejlic's clear sound design make this production one that any professional theatre in town would be proud to present....With some of Sondheim's brightest gems, including the ballads "No One is Alone," and "Children Will Listen," Into the Woods is a show that also has important lessons and messages underneath the comical exterior. Even with a cast of teenagers, the Valley Youth Theatre production is able to get those messages across. With just a very few shortcomings, the combination of a very good cast, clear direction, and impressive sets, costumes, lighting and sound, make this Into the Woods an enchanting production of a most creative and ingenious musical." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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