Thursday, October 25, 2007

'Into the Woods'

5th Avenue Theatre
October 19 - November 10, 2007
Tickets and Information

The first image one encounters as they enter the 5th Ave Theatre is a pink banner suspended above the stage with the words "I Wish..." spindly written across. The significance of this image is two-fold: first, that the romantic, cursive writing with the bright pink color establishes the light, fairy tale mood, and second, that the words themselves portray the central aspect of the show: that humans, without fail, are never satisfied, always wishing for more. The brilliance of the show, as it is written, is precisely this: it is over-the-top, exaggerated, and fluffy in all its mythical goodness, while at the same time possesses piercing insight into the human condition. It transports us to fantasy, yes, but brings us right back home to reality...and we love every glittery minute of it.

'Into the Woods' weaves together several familiar fairy tales: Little Red Ridinghood, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Jack and the Beanstalk, among others. In the opening, each of the characters wish for something (love, money, children, a festival, etc.) and are drawn into the woods in their separate quests. As in any good comedy, there are mishaps, misunderstandings, and a lot of great moments with a cow, but everyone ends up happily ever the end of the first act. Sondheim could have ended right there, and would have had an entertaining, albeit emotionally shallow, show. However, in Act II, we see the difficulty in trying to maintain this happy ending, even in a fantasy world. It is in this act therefore that the most real and human moments occur. The show concludes on a high note, after taking the audience through an unexpectedly round, dynamic journey.

The 24 characters are portrayed by some of Seattle's best theatrical talent. The acting is as good as one may expect from a musical, but the voices are diverse, fulfilling, and impressive, particularly those of Billie Wildrick ('Cinderella'), Leslie Law ('Baker's Wife'), and Michael Hunsaker ('Wolf'/'Cinderella's Prince'). The stage is furnished with twisted, overgrown banches and vines, with a large rotating dial in the center which allows characters to "travel" through the woods. The lighting was perfectly dramatic and the costumes were deliciously Disney-esque.

'Into the Woods' is a guaranteed good time if you are able to get past the immediately overwhelming impression of a predictable, shallow, fairy tale musical. Sondheim's music alone shatters any cliche, and the 5th Avenue company has truly produced a fine production. As one line goes in the show, "If you know what you want, then you go and you take it." This may just be the perfect advice in regards to tickets. If you don't go see the show now, later on you'll WISH you had...

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