Not for children’s ears
Into the Woods
Sacramento, CA 95818
With outstanding vocalists, a tight live orchestra and silliness galore, the Light Opera Theatre of Sacramento turns its sights to Stephen Sondheim’s absurdist retelling of classic fairy tales, Into the Woods. It’s as close as contemporary musical theater gets to traditional light opera, with complex and lovely vocal parts overlaid with enough outright weirdness to satisfy the “light” requirement. It’s also shot through with Sondheim’s take on humanity; his characters are fighting internal battles between their better natures and their baser urges.
In short, it’s a good musical for grownups, and that’s precisely the way it plays at LOTS, as directed by Katie Daley.
One after another, the familiar characters—Cinderella (Sara Haugland); Jack, of beanstalk fame (John Unrath), Little Red Riding Hood (Kelly Cullity performs this role from February 1-10, after which it will be assumed by Jennifer Morrison)—and the characters added by Sondheim—the Baker (Mike Yee) and his wife (Danielle Hansen)—head into the woods. All of them want something. More precisely, they desire something enough to seek it out.
And, in this case, desires—wishes, if you will—have consequences.
The lead roles are all wonderfully cast, including Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Baad, who also plays the Wolf with lascivious hunger) and Rapunzel’s Prince (Elio Gutierrez). They’re joined by an outstanding performance from Margherita Valeriano as the Witch and excellent work from Mike Baad in dual roles (Narrator and Mysterious Man). The scene stealer—in a comic role with minimal singing—is Troy Turpen as Jack’s beloved cow, Milky White.
Production values are top-notch, with fantastically detailed costumes from Debbie Baad, including ball gowns and an udderly perfect cow outfit. The drawback is the usual difficulty with sound in the 24th Street Theatre; performers singing from upstage weren’t picked up clearly, and some lyrics sounded muddled as a result.
But on another note, the orchestra, under the direction of Philip Daley, deserves kudos. Live music always adds an extra dimension to a production, in this case giving us some “magic beans” with oomph and a giant with umph, not to mention outstanding accompaniment.
Be mindful that these particular fairy tales aren’t edited for tender eyes and ears; wishes have consequences, the woods are dark, and you never know exactly what might befall you in the wild.