In the words of Johnny Mercer, let’s ac-cent-chu-ate the positive and review Point Park Conservatory’s Into the Woods.
This 1987 Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical combines extant fairy-tale characters (Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red, et al.) with a few invented ones and, in the first act, sends them into the forest to get their wishes. In Act II, we learn what happens after happily-ever-after.
The positive news is this outstanding Point Park cast; my date was shocked that they were all students, and his astonishment is understandable. The cast is huge, and I kept waiting for a false note … in vain.
Lucy Moon Fitzsimons sings and plays the Witch with the force of an atomic bomb. Nicole Stouffer and Maggie Roos bring to their roles as Cinderella and the Baker’s Wife a sharp, probing intelligence that provides depth and texture.
Ben Northrup is deeply moving as the Baker, and Bruce Franz makes his dual roles of Narrator and Mysterious Man compelling. Bebe Mae Tabickman has got both a knockout set of pipes and a deft hand with comedy. Mason Lewis and Kayla Muldoon, as Jack and Little Red, make the most of the beautiful solo turns Sondheim has written. Playing the Princes with unabashed and entertaining hammy glee are Paul Hambidge and Taylor Warren. The entire cast is a tremendous pleasure, ably assisted by music director Camille Villalpando Rolla and her orchestra.
Forget Johnny Mercer! What the hell was going on with scenic designer Britton Mauk’s set?!? I can’t even describe it — sort of three giant paper bags repeatedly, pointlessly spun around and around while a bunch of small geometric shapes get pushed across the stage with the sole purpose of inconveniencing the performers. Really, when the set has more blocking than the actors, you know there’s a problem. And shouldn’t a show set inside a forest have something green in it? The whole thing is the color of a lumber yard. Director Zeva Barzell’s confused traffic patterns and clumsy staging seem to suggest she’s as gobsmacked by the set as we are.
You don’t want to see Point Park’s Into the Woods, but you really do want to see it.