A very good production of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical “Into the Woods” is running at the 1000 Islands Playhouse. The cast, with a couple of exceptions, is strong and the actors can all handle the complex score. Drew Facey’s set, featuring an upper level walkway, 3 birdcage-like playing areas and, of course, woods, is excellent and his wonderful costumes cleverly fanciful. I loved the Prince’s high-top sneakers. The choreography by Shelly Stewart Hunt is good, especially for the Princes, although I felt it began a bit too early in the opening number and we lost some lyrics. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting is evocative and William Fallon’s sound first-rate and well balanced.
Speaking of sound, Musical Director Stephen Woodjetts has done an expert job with the complex vocals, especially the diction. When the show first opened in New York in 1987, the pit musicians called it “Into the Words.” He’s also done a great arrangement that allows only 5 musicians to convey the flavor and color of the original orchestration, with himself on piano, Greg Runions on percussion, David Smith on reeds, Bob Arlidge on bass, and the excellent Erin Puttee on keyboard.
Ron Pederson is fine as the Baker and his “No More” scene with the Mysterious Man, the equally fine Ian Deakin, is very powerful. Sara-Jane Hosie is very good as the Baker’s Wife and especially so on “Moments in the Woods.” Unfortunately Nicole Norsworthy is a weak “Little Red.” There’s not enough of Charlie Brown’s bossy Lucy in the character and “I Know Things Now” is far too adult and knowing.
Katie Ryerson, adept at falling down stairs, certainly does justice to Cinderella, especially in Act II. Shelly Simester as Cinderella’s Stepmother, along with Nicola Hadjis and Madison Hayes-Crook as the Stepsisters are both nasty and funny, while Gillian Reed is fine as the mono-melodic and much abused Rapunzel. Of course the two Princes, Eric Morin, who doubles as a very sexy wolf and Michael Hughes, doubling as the snobbish Steward, bring down the house with “Agony.”
Kristin Galer’s Witch in Act I is so broad and screechy her first song and some lines are difficult to understand. She comes into her own in Act II and does a great job on “Last Midnight.” Travis Seetoo is a believable Jack, as is the always fine Marcia Tratt as his Mother. Mr. Seetoo’s “Giants in the Sky” is terrific.
Director Ashlie Corcoran has pulled all the elements of “Into the Woods” into a cohesive whole. The staging is good and the characterizations generally solid. She’s found the humor and also the underlying humanity in this complex piece. I’m unusually familiar with this show, but am always finding something new. One of my favorite lyrics comes in the Act II Finale. “Careful the wish you make – wishes come true, not free.” If you’ve never seen “Into the Woods,” now’s your chance. If you have, this production would reward another viewing.
“Into the Woods” Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine.
Produced by the 1000 Islands Playhouse – through August 13 Tkts: 613-382-7020
Ian Deakin – Mysterious Man/Narrator
Kristin Galer – Witch
Nicola Hadjis – Lucinda
Madison Hayes-Crook – Florinda
Sara-Jeanne Hosie – Baker’s Wife
Michael Hughes – Rapunzel’s Prince/The Steward
Eric Morin – Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf
Nicole Norsworthy – Little Red
Ron Pederson – Baker
Gillian Reed – Rapunzel/Cinderella’s Mother
Katie Ryerson – Cinderella
Travis Seetoo – Jack
Shelly Simester – Cinderella’s Stepmother/Granny/Giant
Marcia Tratt – Jack’s Mother
Director – Ashlie Corcoran
Musical Director – Stephen Woodjetts
Choreographer – Shelly Stewart Hunt
Set & Costumes – Drew Facey
Lighting – Michelle Ramsay
Sound – William Fallon