Entertainment » Theatre

Into the Woods

by Shane  Scott
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday May 7, 2014
’Into the Woods’ at the Plummer
’Into the Woods’ at the Plummer  (Source:Isaac James Creative)

On Saturday, May 2, the historical Plummer Auditorium of Fullerton led Los Angeles in the revival of what is probably the most satirical and off-color fairytale known to man. If the reactions of the audience proved anything, it's that "Into the Woods," the dark comedy brainchild of writer James Lapine and composer Stephen Sondheim, which hasn't been performed on the West Coast since 2002, is as hard hitting now as it was at first curtain, nearly 30 years ago.

Directed by T.J. Dawson, the performance was as authentic as could be, equipped with a moving stage, familiar costumes and of course, a milky white plastic cow. Had it not been for a new cast, one might have felt like they'd been transported back to the debut performance as actors reenacted everything down to Grandma hopping around in the silhouette of the Wolf's stomach and the Baker shoving a cape, blond wig and shiny, golden shoe down the throat of the inanimate Milky White.

"'Into the Woods' is very special to me," Dawson said. "It is the first musical I was ever in and the first show I directed 14 years ago. Coming back to this material now as a husband and father has meant so much to me. To experience this material and take this journey as a parent has truly been a remarkable thing."

The musical was even complimented with a 15-piece live orchestra consisting of the sounds of the flute, clarinet, bassoon, trumpets, horns, violin, viola, cello, piano, bass, synthesizer and percussion. The musical performance, although a very nice touch, unfortunately tended to overpower the voices of some actors, especially the Witch, played by Bets Malone, who was drowned out by the orchestra's drummer during the entirety of her opening number, "Witch's Rap."

Although Bets Malone didn’t meet the voluptuous appeal of predecessor Bernadette Peters, she did match up in voice, boasting great range and power reminiscent of the theater legend.

Other than a minor hiccup or two, including the prop house of Jack, played by Jordan Lamourex, crashing into another prop during the first act, the performance was seamless. Any "Into the Woods" fans would also have noted that the actors greatly matched the characters as well as their Broadway counterparts.

Although Malone didn't meet the voluptuous appeal of predecessor Bernadette Peters, she did match up in voice, boasting great range and power reminiscent of the theater legend. Other main characters included Jeff Skowron as the Baker, Jeanette Dawson as Cinderella, Tim Gleason as the Wolf and Cinderella's Prince, Christanna Rowader as Rapunzel and the crowd's favorite, Viva Carr, as the Baker's Wife.

For those who have never seen "Into the Woods," get ready for a jarring mix of emotions. Sure, it's a funny show, but as Dawson puts it, the production focuses on what happens to fictional characters of Grimm fairy tales between the pages and after the "happy endings" have come to pass. Subsequently some endings were less than happy.

"It is difficult to encapsulate all of the disparate messages of 'Into the Woods' into a single theme, but the engine that drives everything else in the show is the absence of absolutes," Dawson said. "There are many underlined issues such as tolerance and understanding, which fall into the greater category of challenging the assumptions we make about ourselves and others."

"Into the Woods" runs through May 18 at Plummers Auditorium, 201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA. For tickets or information, call 714-589-2770 or visit 3dtshows.com.

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