Thursday, August 09, 2012

Theatre Review - Syracuse City Arts Council - Into the Woods and Before Ever After

Back in the days when my wife and I were first dating we took a number of road trips. And road trips always included music. On one of those trips, she put in her Into the Woods soundtrack. I hadn't heard of the musical previously but the music and the story were a lot of fun. Since then, we've seen the play together a couple of times. But this past weekend I was lucky enough to win tickets to take the whole family to see it.

Living in Bountiful at the south end of Davis County we have our own theatre community going pretty strong. So I wasn't familiar with the Syracuse City Arts Council. The Council itself has been around for a number of years supporting the arts in west Davis County. They have an orchestra, provide concerts, summer movies in the park and, of course, an annual musical. This year the musical was Into the Woods.

Prior to the main musical they had a Sondheim Musical Revue cast entirely of youth (ages 6-18 I think they said) called Before Ever After. More than just a bunch of kids singing songs from Sondheim this Revue was set up as a story taking place before Into the Woods featuring younger versions of the characters from the play to follow. There was some great youth talent involved in singing, dancing and acting. The director/writer took a bunch of classic Sondheim songs from other shows and integrated them into storytelling that made sense in the Into the Woods world. It was creative and fun.

Before long we transitioned into the main musical, Into the Woods. If you don't know the story, the idea is that we're set in a world of fairy tale mashups. We have a place populated by Jack (of beanstalk fame), Cinderella and her family, Red Riding Hood (and of course her Granny and a Wolf), Rapunzel, a couple of princes, a Baker and his wife, and a Witch. The story involves the adventure of these characters going "into the woods" on a variety of quests (Jack to sell his cow, Red to go to grannies, Cinderella to go to the ball, the Baker to get spell ingredients for the Witch). They interact with each other and other frights. There's a lot of fun humor as well as many overarching storytelling elements that add morals and thought provoking ideas to the tale.

The casting was wonderful. Everybody had great voices and good acting abilities. I was especially impressed by Jack and the Prince. They were super fabulous. Not to spoil the plot but at the end of the first act and then throughout the second act, the Witch undergoes a change…and I found it very interesting that the casting and costuming gave us a Witch that truly resembled the originator of the part on Broadway…the inestimable Bernadette Peters. I never saw her perform the part live but she's on the soundtrack and the DVD recording of the play. Those are some shoes that are hard to fill and though she did a great job, the resemblance kept making me compare her performance to that of Bernadette which isn't really quite fair. She did a great job as did everybody in the cast.

The stage was well set and the costumes were good too. There were a couple of hiccups with the microphones such that sometimes it was harder to hear one or more of the characters. We were close enough and they were projecting well enough that this wasn't a huge problem and they seemed to get it taken care of after intermission.

All in all this was a great community production that took the production level to a step above what you might otherwise expect from community theatre. While this production of Into the Woods has come to an end, I recommend this show as good family fair. And for anybody in the Davis County area, you should keep an eye on the Syracuse Arts Council for future productions. I know I'll be watching to see what they do next.

Here's a fun "sneak peak" presented by Syracuse City Arts Council. It's filled with a lot of behind the scenes and pre-show prep.

1 comment:

Brian Miller said...

intersting...never heard of this one...those mash ups of the fairy tales can be pretty fun...