BBB’s ‘Into the Woods’ missing some of the magic

The woods are a magical place in composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.”

Unfortunately, some of that magic is missing in Broadway By the Bay’s uneven production.

In this show, Sondheim and book writer James Lapine blend several fairy tale characters into a story of wishes.

Thus Cinderella (Jennifer Mitchell), Little Red Ridinghood (Jenni Chapman), Jack of beanstalk fame (Kamren Mahaney), Rapunzel (Chloë Angst) and even a few brief allusions to Snow White (Amanda Plant) and Sleeping Beauty (Gabby Wylie-Chaney) all are included.

Then the creators added the new tale of a childless baker (Sam Faustine) and his wife (Juliana Lustenader) along with a witch (Jen Brooks).

The characters all have wishes that take them “Into the Woods” for fulfillment

During the first act, all of their wishes are granted, and they seem destined for a happy “Ever After.”

During the second act, however, they face a new challenge: The giant (voice of Jennifer Martinelli) that made its way to earth via Jack’s beanstalk is wreaking havoc in search of the lad, Jack, who slew her husband.

They also face another challenge: reality, the realization that getting what you wish for isn’t necessarily the path to happiness.

Selfishness and betrayal intervene. Some people die, leaving their loved ones behind, but somehow the survivors find the courage to keep on going because they realize “No One Is Alone.”

Despite its fairy tale basis, this is a show that’s more suited for adults and teenagers, not young children.

On the plus side in BBB’s production is the singing, especially by Chapman as Little Red Ridinghood, Mitchell as Cinderella, Melissa Costa as Jack’s mother and John Melis as Cinderella’s prince and the wolf.

Some other roles are marred by stray pitches and less than perfect articulation of the fast-paced, witty lyrics.

The acting is mostly good except for David Blackburn in drag as Cinderella’s stepmother. It’s a good idea, but his interpretation is too campy, sometimes distracting as he flips his wig when the focus should be on other characters.

Director Jasen Jeffrey should have done more to rein in such excesses.

Jeffrey and set designer Kelly James Tighe also could have done more to enhance the magic. There’s no attempt to show the beanstalk, and the woods are mostly a suggestion. Scene transitions are less than fluid, interrupting the story’s flow and making it less effective.

It’s likely that some audience members who aren’t familiar with the show might not always realize what’s happening.

Music director Sean Kana leads the large orchestra. The minimal but workable choreography is by Camille Edralin. Costumes are by Katelyn Bailey, lighting by Joe D’Emilio and sound by Jon Hayward.

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, “Into the Woods” will continue through Nov. 24 at the Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway St., Redwood City.

For tickets and information, call (650) 579-5565 or visit www.broadwaybythebay.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Judy RichterJudy reviews San Francisco Bay Area theater and writes feature articles about activities of the Stanford women's basketball team and Fast Break Club. A longtime Bay Area journalist, she is retired from the San Francisco Chronicle, where she was a writer and copy editor.View all posts by Judy Richter →