Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Village Theatre’s recent production of "Into the Woods" deserves recognition

Christine Marie Brown, Trey Ellett, (Eric Polani Jensen peaking through) and Mari Nelson in the beautiful Witch costume (Mark Kitaoka)
Into the Woods
Village Theatre
Through November 19, 2017

If you have never seen the movie of Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim or the stage play, you may not know that Sondheim took five different fairy tales, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, the Baker and his Wife (a version of Thumbelina, of sort), Rapunzel, and Jack and the Beanstalk and wove them together so that they all know each other and live in the same small village.

So, Red visits the Baker and Wife to get food for Grandma, next doorish to Jack and his Mother, and they live in Cinderella’s village with her Stepmother and StepSisters and the same Prince, who is brother to the Prince who falls in love with Rapunzel – and then he throws in a Witch and some curses needing lifting. It’s pretty ingenious, but then – he’s SONDHEIM!

Since the stories wrap up at the end of Act One all essentially happy, people might be tricked into thinking it’s over and leaving, but Act Two is where the LESSONS are… Act Two is the reason, likely, that Sondheim wanted to write this seemingly silly tale. In Act Two, everything falls apart and people can’t live happily ever after. Indeed, there is adultery, and morally suspect behavior and even death. While it seems like family-friendly fare, it might bring up some difficult conversations on the way home after Act Two, depending on the age of the audience member.

Village Theatre just wrapped up a pretty terrific version of the stage play, and deserves to have the production recognized. It’s easy to declare that the women clearly performed best in this production, but that would ignore the fact that the men in this musical are almost all written as fools and buffoons, so it’s not really their fault. 

As is often the case, the technical aspects were beautifully rendered, from a haunting revolving woods setting by Matthew Smucker, to ornate and gorgeous costuming by Melanie Taylor Burgess – especially the wonderful Witch costuming, and a wonderful orchestra, music directed by Tim Symons. Also, the wonderful Milky White (cow) puppet was created by Seattle Children’s Theatre master puppeteer Annett Mateo

Also as can be expected from Village, casting of the performers fielded a great group of performers in all roles. The two most impressive performers in this very solid cast were new graduate Arika Matoba as Red Ridinghood, who showed a terrific ability for deadpan comedy – a skill that is maybe not teachable, and Mari Nelson as the Witch. In fact, Nelson brought so much interpretation and emotion to all of the needs and wants of this complicated Witch that I feel that she was the best Witch I have yet to experience, including Meryl Streep in the movie.

The current production on stage at Village is Newsies and it’s a great show to see, too. For more information, go to or call 425-392-2202. 

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