|Jenny Latimer (Cinderella) and Dana Steingold (Little Red Ridinghood) Photo: T. Charles Erickson|
By Lauren Yarger
Mark Lamos directs an impressive kickoff at Westport Country Playhouse with a 25th-anniversary production of Stephen Sondhheim's funny and thought-provoking musical Into the Woods.
The fairytale characters are familiar. There's Little Red Riding Hood (a terrific Dana Steingold) and the wolf (Nick Walker), Cinderella (Jenny Latimer), her prince (also Walker), stepmother (Alma Cuervo) and stepsisters (Eleini Delopouos and Nikka Graff-Lanzarone), Rapunzel (Britney Coleman) and her prince (Robert Lenzi), the Baker and his wife (Erik Liberman and Danielle Ferland), Jack of beanstalk fame and his mother (Justin Scott Brown and Cheryl stern)) and of course, the witch (Lauren Kennedy). there's even a mysterious man (Jeremy Lawrence) and a narrator (Jeffry Denman) to take us once upon a time.
What happens after the "happily ever after" part of this story, with a book by James Lapine, isn't exactly familiar, however. Sondheim's lyrics take us on another path through a woods as the kingdom's residents have to face giants, prejudices, relationships and loss.
For the most part, Lamos has assembled a strong cast. Stand outs are Steingold as a really edgy and funny Riding Hood and Brown, whose dreamy tenor seems tailor-made for Sondheim. The princes and stepsisters play off each other well for good comedy.
Dressed in festive costumes (Candace Donnelly, design), the cast performs Sean Curran's subtle choreography and movement against a storybook cutout backdrop (Allen Moyer, design) and sings classic tunes like "No One is Alone," "Giants in the Sky," "Agony" and the title song accompanied by a six-person orchestra (Music Direction, Wayne Barker). There's even a fun cow for Jack to trade for the magic beans in this nicely staged production. An adjustment to sound (Zachary Williamson) would improve a sometimes hard-to-understand voice of the giant.
In an interesting note, Into the Woods, produced in association with CENTERSTAGE (Baltimore), is being staged at the Playhouse where Sondheim was an apprentice in 1950.
It runs through May 26.
Information and tickets: 203-227-4177; 1-888-927-7529, Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport; www.westportplayhouse.org.