Woodson’s “Into the Woods” propels fairy tales intertwined with Sondheim’s atonal melodies to superlative level


Lara Taylor and Anna Phillips-Brown (Kristie McEntire)
December 16, 2013

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Claire Seaton, a student at Washington-Lee High School , reviews “Into the Woods” performed by W. T. Woodson High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program .

What if happily ever after wasn’t the end of a fairy tale?  What happens after the beanstalk has been cut down, after Cinderella marries her prince, after Little Red escapes the wolf?  Do fairy tale characters have to deal with the consequences of their actions?  In W.T. Woodson High School’s production of Into the Woods, the answer is a resounding yes. 

Into the Woods, written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, premiered on Broadway in 1987 and has garnered incredible critical acclaim ever since.  The plotline is a complex web of ripple effects, following the story of a baker and his wife on a quest to start a family, woven together with classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales.  The story doesn’t just end at “Ever After,” but examines the happily ever aftermath. 

Joshua Reiter gave an impressive performance as the Baker, navigating the complex character and tricky vocals with ease.  Particularly in such numbers as “No One Is Alone” and “No More,” Reiter captured his character’s maturity and demonstrated much vocal energy.  Carrying the show alongside him was Emily Bubek as the Baker’s Wife, who tackled another difficult role with gusto.  Bubek’s commitment to her character was evident and her voice swooped and soared through songs like “A Very Nice Prince” and “Maybe They’re Magic.”  Lexie McEntire’s portrayal of Cinderella was sublime, as were her vocals and sense of timing.  As the Witch, Lara Taylor impressed the audience with her emotional range, despite wearing a full mask for the entire first act of the show.  Drew Bondy was excellent as Jack, mastering the vocal demands of the score and adding energy to the company.  Cinderella’s Prince (Bryce Menard) and Rapunzel’s Prince (Jacob Nelson) stole the show with their rendition of “Agony” as well as their pompous mannerisms.  Menard also played the role of the Wolf with impressive physicality and commitment to the insatiable character. 

The set was minimalistic enough to depict different moments in the woods, yet was intricately constructed to provide many different levels for the actors to work with. Rapunzel’s tower and the tree at Cinderella’s mother’s grave were prominent features of the set, as were the flats for Cinderella’s house and castle, Jack’s house, and the Bakers’ house.  The cast was outfitted with a plethora of excellent costumes designed by Isabella Valdes and Sael Catano.  Robyn Smith and Taylor Sarlo headed the Hair and Makeup department, giving the Witch a wig and a mask, old age makeup to Little Red Riding Hood’s Granny, and a beard to the Mysterious Man.  The props department, led by Claudia Caceres, notably featured a cow on wheels as well as a carousel horse and an impressive glowing staff for the Witch. 

It’s a tall order for a high school to perform a Stephen Sondheim musical, but W.T. Woodson’s theatre department demonstrated considerable effort and commitment in their production of “Into the Woods.”  On the surface a lighthearted comedy, at heart the show is a test of moral ambiguities and an exploration of the grey areas between good and evil.  After your journey into the Woodson auditorium, you may find yourself asking, does the end truly justify the means—or the beans?

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