Into the Woods at IU’s Ruth N. Halls Theatre is a knockout. The twenty-seven member cast shows at every moment the high level of IU’s highly competitive musical theatre program. Director Kenneth L. Roberson in his maiden voyage at IU has skillfully crafted the journeys of the multiple characters through the Sondheim and Lapine’s complex weaving of tales.
Roberson is aided by choreographer Liza Gennaro, with major contributions from the sound design of Jack Keefer and the lighting of Katie Gruenhagen. The attractive, character-story-telling costumes are by Kelsey Nichols. Christopher Rhoton’s set designs are always in service of the tales. Terry Labolt conducts as he leads the singers and his eleven piece ensemble.
Sondheim and Lapine have woven the stories of Cinderella, the Baker’s wife, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood together along with the Rapunzel. For good measure they throw in guest appearances by Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. It’s a dizzying amount of narrative only slightly aided by the graceful Narrator, Nick Pappas.
Wishes, their fulfillment and their danger are the focus of Into the Woods cautionary tales. We’re told to be careful of what we wish for and the perils for both success and failure, but that all must go into those woods. It’s a fast paced show and especially in the first act, it’s mostly dialog and action with little reflection, concluding in more or less success for the wishers. The second act is darker, with more opportunity for reflection.
There is comedy in the show at IU. Little Red Riding Hood’s appearance with a wolf fur outfit instead of her red cape got a laugh. The agony duets of Robert Toms and Joey Birchler as Cinderella and Rapunzel’s tree hugging princes were very funny.
The production of Into the Woods is a very good one, but keep in mind that the IU cast is young and they along with Lapine and Sondheim are better at the fast paced segments. Reflection and thought take more skill and perhaps simply more life experience to bring off.
One of the final lines from Lapine and Sondheim’s Into the Woods is “…children will listen…” it is true, but only adults will understand.
The IU production in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre plays through Saturday April 22, 2015
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker.