The glorious sunset blushed into the horizon as the lights came on at the John Philip Sousa Memorial Bandstand in Port Washington, New York. A dreamy and beautiful painted backdrop of a dense woods, and spookier moving projections on the side panels set the scene for an evening’s entertainment of Into the Woods Jr., a gentle adaptation of the famous production by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. It is an almighty mash up of numerous Grimm Brothers’ and other fairytales, including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk. The story’s message questions whether our wishes are worth the price paid for them to be granted.
It was a fast-paced evening, starting with our two narrators on time-and-half mode getting us straight into the story. The stage directions were excellent and felt more choreographic than blocking with tableau, after tableau of the whole cast on stage. This was not an easy task considering the stepped stage of the bandshell, which was used to great effect.
The cast showcased the individual characters well and carried the difficult musical score. The earnest Baker and his strong Wife, the dynamic Little Red Riding Hood, sad Cinderella and her fierce stepmother with the gorgeous stepsisters who were jubilant and much nicer than my own memories of the childhood fairy tales. Quiet Jack and his despairing mother with his best friend Milky-White Cow, dreamy Rapunzel and the very scary Witch, the very cool-dude Wolf, kind Granny/Cinderella’s real mother, the competitive two Princes, the loyal and efficient Steward and a very mysterious, Mysterious Man who (pssst – don’t tell anyone) is the Baker’s father.
The cast of 8–16-year-olds who practiced for 8 weeks under the helm of Rachel Blackburn and her creative team, produced a very enjoyable and professional show, appreciated by a good sized audience of family, friends and theater lovers sitting on folding chairs and blankets. The enthusiasm of the cast members was infectious and refreshing. Special mention goes to Milky White Cow, who constantly drew my eye, wordlessly and obediently following different characters on his hands and knees (on a rough concrete floor), adorned with a very creative set of udders. He keeled over to die gloriously, (worthy of a Romeo) and his one line of “mooooo” was dramatic!
Narrators Audrey Peterson & Hope Peterson
Cinderella Anna Kate Morovich
Jack Jamie Wong
Milky White Jake Rennard
Baker Crew Durrant
Baker’s Wife Cayleigh Ricchiutti
Cinderella’s Stepmother Grace Morovich
Florinda Audrey Duckstein
Lucinda Liana McCarthy
Littler Red Riding Hood Emily Rennard
Jack’s Mother Estella Gallo
Witch Reagan Zelles
Cinderella’s Mother/Granny Dahlia Lichtinstein
Mysterious Man Matteo Rizzo
Wolf/Steward Charlotte Parker
Rapunzel Elizabeth Milgrim
Rapuzel’s Prince Dean Perkins
Cinderella’s Prince Lenny Webber
Piano Caleb Hoyer
Drum Set & Percussion Noah Hadland
Trumpet Nick Stephens
Digital Set James Fitzpatrick, Fitz Studios
Set Design Rachel Blackburn & Melissa McElroy
Director Rachel Blackburn
Into the woods, without regret, the choice is made, the task is set.
Into the woods, but not forgetting why (we’re) on the journey…..
[paraphrase of lyric from Sondheim musical, “Into the Woods.”]