Last night was the opening night performance of Into the Woods at Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, NH. Into the Woods with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine is a musical comedy that intertwines a number of classic fairy tales, such as Cinderella, Jack and Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood, to name a few. We are taken along on a magical journey to learn what the true cost of a wish really is and who is willing to pay the price to make their wish come true.
This ensemble production with a company of ten actors was creatively directed by Bob Vernon. In this production, props and costume pieces allowed for multiple characters to be played by the same actor. Initially, I was unsure how well this was going to work as there are many characters within the show and often times they are on stage at the same time. But by the end of the prologue, which, thanks to Sondheim, is a very long number, I, along with most of the audience, were able to follow who was who for the remainder of the show.
Throughout the first act, the one-liners landed and had the audience chuckling in their seats. Unfortunately, many one-liners were then repeated by audience members to the people they were sitting next to. This makes me wonder if the actors were rushing and the audience couldn’t clearly understand them so things were being repeated or that audience members thought lines were so funny they needed to say them again for themselves. Either way it was a distraction and I found myself unable to hear the actors on multiple occasions because of the excess audience chatter. But I’ll sum it up to an overly excited opening night audience who were having a wonderful night at the theatre.
My favorite performance from the evening came well into act one when the two Princes gave fantastically, dramatic performances in their duet “Agony”. For the audience, this number was anything but agonizing to sit through and was happily welcomed again in act two during a reprise. These standout performances were given by Ben Bagley (Cinderella’s Prince) and Jeff Dalzell (Rapunzel’s Prince). Though they made great Princes, they both played other roles within the show: Mr. Dalzell displayed his versatile acting chops in his other roles as Milky White (the cow) and Florinda (one of the Stepsisters); while Mr. Bagley gave an incredibly creepy performance as the Wolf.
Other notable performances included Jess Andra as the Baker’s Wife and Seraphina Caligiure as the Witch. Their renditions of “Moments in the Woods” and “Lament”, both in act two, were superb. Bill Humphreys (Mysterious Man & Lucinda) was an audience favorite offering many one liners and amusing physical comedy. Jamie Bradley, as the Baker, delivered clear and strong vocals; while Cathy McKay was energetic as Cinderella’s Stepmother, Jack’s Mother and Granny. Gabrielle Archambault was lovely as Cinderella which contrasted her performance as an angry Giant. Even the youngsters of the company Emma Joanis (Little Red Ridinghood & Rapunzel) and Liam Blanchard (Jack & Steward) earned their share of laughs and applause throughout.
In closing, be prepared as it is a long show, closing in on almost three hours including intermission. But it is clear that this group of talented actors have worked hard to make this a good production. So why not take a chance and go Into the Woods, you’re sure to enjoy the journey!
Into the Woods is playing through June 14th, 2015. For information and tickets visit www.seacoastrep.org