Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

Because fairy tales take place in delightful lands of magic and whimsy, I can only imagine that people doing productions featuring such fiction think to themselves, “This isn’t actually historical.  It’s flexible.  Now is my ITW logo-webchance to do something innovative and new”.  Hence the strange new introduction the Curtis Theatre added to their production of Into the Woods.  Sometimes attempts such as these are refreshingly innovative, sometimes they fall flat.   In the case of the Curtis Theater’s introduction to the show, it is the latter but everything that happens in between the beginning and end of the show qualifies as a redemption.

For those who don’t know, Into the Woods is a Stephen Sondheim musical featuring a variety of classic fairly tales, how they intermingle with each other, and what happens after, happily ever after.  There is a dvd release of the original Broadway cast and a movie that just came out in the theaters last year.  Point being, a lot of people are familiar with the story and music at this point. So by attempting this play both musically and emotionally they have quite a high standard to live up to, and for this the Curtis Theater is to be commended. 

The introduction to the piece falls flat.  Points for creativity, but they’ve decided to take this “Princess Bride” angle where they start out in a more modern world with the narrator as an old man telling the story to his granddaughter. The granddaughter of the old man turns into Little Red (ok that’s cute) and a good portion of the first number is done in a library with modern clothes on while the actors and stage transition.  The thing is, this might work if the show were little known or an original piece.  But it isn’t and it’s not, so all I’m able to think of while watching for the first ten minutes is, “Are they really going to do the entire show like this?”  Fortunately the answer is no, and a sigh of relief is breathed. We don’t hear from these people again until the end.  With this distraction gone, the show can get underway. 

Performances here fall into the “fine” category–some minor line fumbles, and some of the more passionate moments fail to convince.  Most of the people onstage have acting skills that are neither here nor there, but they are strong singers.  This is absolutely not true in the case of Brandon Sanchez (Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf) and Chanel Morehead (Little Red).  These two have the standout performances of the night, and they are to be praised for their strong and convincing, yet different portrayals of the roles. I have never seen such a goofy version of the Wolf, but it works.  Likewise, I have never seen Little Red Riding Hood quite so coquettish during her interactions with the Wolf, but when one considers the sexual overtones of not only the original cast’s Wolf but the historical Wolf from the original tale, Morehead’s approach to the Wolf makes sense.  The originality in their approaches does not end with the song they share.  Sanchez especially delivers his lines in a way that is different without throwing them away.

With the general production not being as strong as die-hard fans are accustomed to this show is probably best suited to be viewed by people unfamiliar with the show, or children.

 7.4/10

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Friday Feb 6, 2015 – Saturday Feb 21, 2015

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