CLT production of ‘Into the Woods’ a gratifying musical

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Actors, crew, set, costumes

are great; show has it all

AUBURN — The journey from “Once Upon a Time” to “Happily Ever After” takes some seriously sinister detours in the current production of “Into the Woods” on the Community Little Theatre stage.

This acclaimed Stephen Sondheim musical mixes the plots of several classic fairytales into an imaginative blend of moral ambiguity and unexpected consequences.

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Make no mistake. This show is meant for adults. It’s not a children’s show. With those stipulations, what has this large cast and crew brewed up for the summer production of CLT’s 75th year? The answer is magic, soaring music, spectacular action and a gratifying interpretation of this Broadway hit.

There are numerous individual performances of outstanding quality, all enhanced by an elaborate setting. The staging makes effective use of a multi-level arrangement of scenes. Action moves up ramps, down stairs, onto high platforms, and even atop a tower.

Vincent S. Ratsavong, director and choreographer, delivers a delightful production of this Sondheim show. Every character, from lead roles to supporting parts, got his attention and they all made noteworthy contributions.

Kay Warren’s portrayal of the Witch is superior in both vocal quality and acting. Her transformation reversing a curse that made the ugly, old woman of the woods is well-done in full view on stage.

Warren has become a CLT favorite as a result of her memorable roles in “Children of Eden,” “Nunsense,” and “Hairspray.” Her exceptional vocal skills are well-displayed in renditions of “Last Midnight,” “Witch’s Lament.” and “Children Will Listen.”

Derrick Lacasse and Katie St. Pierre are excellent as the leading characters. They are the baker and his wife, a childless couple who pursue a quest at the witch’s bidding. Their roles are an original story that brings them into contact with the people of familiar fairytales.

Separately, they have duets with the others who go “Into the Woods,” including St. Pierre with Cinderella (Emily Flynn) and Lacasse with a Mysterious Man (Paul Menezes). Those are very pleasing, but highlights for Lacasse and St. Pierre are the numbers they sing together, “It Takes Two” and “Maybe They’re Magic.”

Emily Flynn’s portrayal of Cinderella is excellent, and her fine vocal skills are complemented by good comedic and dramatic interaction with stepmother and sisters (Stephanie Lynn, Ally Laverdiere and Mackenzie Richard). Cody Watson adds good comedic moments as the Steward.

Jake Boyce gives a very pleasing performance as Jack, whose carelessness with magic beans brings a giant to the land. He is assistant director and assistant choreographer, and his principal song, “Giants in the Sky,” is one of the show’s better-known numbers. Jack’s mother is well-played by CLT veteran Renee Davis.

Milky White is Jack’s cow, and his best friend. In this production, Michelle Martin wears a specially created full-body cow costume, and she lends some entertaining acting and emotion to this unusual role.

Rapunzel, the witch’s daughter, is played by Megan Irene Malloy, who was Tracy Turnblad in last season’s CLT presentation of “Hairspray.” Her duets with Warren, “Our Little World” and “Stay With Me,” are well-done.

The princes, paired with Cinderella and Rapunzel, are Michael Jenkins and Cam Ramich. Their duet on “Agony” is another highlight of the show.

Rachel Grindle, who plays Little Red Riding Hood, gives a fine rendition of “I Know Things Now.“ Tony Morin is the lascivious wolf.

Scott Venable’s role as narrator keeps the plot moving along and he finds himself in the midst of the action at the end.

This CLT show’s talent extends through all of the supporting cast, and special credit should go to the crew for an exceptional set and costumes. Rebecca Caron, music director, leads a fine 12-piece orchestra.

The dark side of fairytales for which “Into the Woods” is known may not appeal to all in the audience. As the play’s new movie version of last December warned, “Be careful what you wish for.” In this case, CLT’s third production of “Into the Woods” since the 1987 Broadway debut, meets or exceeds expectations for informed playgoers.

Remaining performances of “Into the Woods” are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 13-15, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16. For tickets or more information call the CLT box office, 783-0958, or go online to www.laclt.com. Shows are at the Great Falls Performing Arts Center, 30 Academy St., Auburn.

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