Vancouver Theatre: Into the Woods
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Directed by Ryan Mooney
Musical Direction by Angus Kellett
Fighting Chance Productions and Renegade Arts Company
Jericho Arts Center
April 28 to May 16, 2015
Vancouver, BC: I have always been bemused by the terms "fairy tales" or "children's stories" used to describe the collections of German folk lore compiled in the 19th century by the appropriately named Brother's Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm. Although sanitized and glamourized into gentler, happier and pretty versions as in the animated Disney films that even young children love to watch, the actual stories tell of violent acts and cruelty that don't always end with the protagonists living "happily ever after."
Nor is Into The Woods a sanitized straightforward retelling of the familiar Grimm's Fairy Tales. Sondheim introduces the characters of the childless couple, The Baker (Christopher King) and his Wife (Jennifer Suratos) whose search for four items to appease the Witch (Sarah Wolfman-Robichaud) provides the link that interweaves the tales of Cinderella (Caroline Buckingham), Rapunzel (Olivia Lang), Red Riding Hood (Elise Sherwood), and Jack (Henry Beasley) and the Beanstalk, with grim themes of child abuse, imprisonment, sexual maturation and predation, poverty, infertility and death.
Ryan Lino was an awesome Milky White (Jack's precious cow that he was forced to sell). It must have been quite claustrophobic inside that costume, but Milky White engaged with the audience and stole every scene she was in with a tilt of her head and movements filled with emotion. As The Wolf, Cook made me shiver with his predatory approach to Little Red while Sherwood subtly conveyed how Little Red lost her youthful innocence. Real-life husband and wife Suratos and King with fine voices and heartfelt performances led us confidently along the often jumbled pathways of the journey.
In an unusual conjunction of two Stephen Sondheim musicals playing at the same time in Vancouver, I saw Into the Woods back to back with Vancouver Opera's grand production of Sweeney Todd. I applaud director Ryan Mooney and Fighting Chance Productions for taking on this challenging work and with minimal resources, creating a wonderful evening of entertainment. I enjoyed it a lot.
Several shows are already sold out so get your tickets soon if you want to catch this show.