Emily White ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Into the Woods is one of Stephen Sondheim’s most beloved and well-known musicals. Just before the show, Director Spiro Veloudos (an Emerson graduate and a ten-year member of Emerson College’s Performing Arts Adjunct Faculty) called it “the greatest musical of the 20th century.” Its themes of family, fairytale, and finding one’s wish are universal and timeless. The show is so well-written that it lends itself to a great performance when produced well. The Lyric Stage Company did that and more. They created a show that breaths new life into the words that many know so well.
Into the Woods tells the stories of many familiar fairytale characters but with a twist. Favorite characters such as Little Red Riding Hood, played by the spunky Maritza Bostic, Rapunzel, played by Emerson grad Amanda Spinella, Cinderella, played by IRNE Award winner Erica Spyres, and of course the ever-present fairytale Witch, played by Aimee Doherty, mingle and mix with each other and other characters such as the Baker, played by John Ambrosino, and the Baker’s Wife, played by Lisa Yuen. The actors truly shined and breathed new life into this favorite and popular show. Their interpretations of the music make the lyrics read in a whole new way, quite poignantly, both thanks to the incredible talent of each cast member and the incredible connection they make with the audience.
Ambrosino and Spyres brought tears to the eyes of audience members with numbers like “No One Is Alone.” They look straight into the audience with a familiar desperation that was beautiful to experience live. All the actors invited the audience into their fairytale world rather than isolating the audience with a fourth wall, which was a very smart and an emotionally touching move by Veludos. Every individual actor’s performance was incredibly nuanced and extremely entertaining to watch. From Doherty’s tormented and captivating Witch to the blissfully and hilariously ignorant Princes (played by Maurice Emmanuel Parent and Emerson grad Sam Simahk) to Spinella’s ridiculously and tragically sad Rapunzel, there was not a weak link in the bunch. Yuen, as the integral and interesting Baker’s Wife, captured audience’s attention with a fresh new interpretation of the character, bursting with light and sarcasm all at once.
Into the Woods is a very vocally and technically challenging show for actors. Given the nature of its intertwining stories and magical elements, Lyric did well to highlight the great talent of the actors without cluttering the show with too many technical elements. The set, designed by David Towlun, was simple yet magical, and a great complement to the fabulously magical lighting design of Scott Clyve. The enchanting elements were displayed in an openly theatrical way, nodding back to the audience acknowledgment element of the production, which came across successfully.
Each element worked in tandem with the actors to create a sense of magic in the world of the play, but also a sense of reality in what the characters sang and spoke. Striving for and losing dreams, connecting to and losing connection with family members, and simply trying to navigate through the world are several themes the audience needs to sift through during the show. Metaphors were addressed without being overdone, which was refreshing.
Lyric Stage Company’s production of Into the Woods is a timeless, heartfelt interpretation of Sondheim’s well-loved show, and it will keep on wishing through June 15 at the Lyric Stage Company stage on Clarendon Street.
Edited 5/19/2014 to reflect corrections in spelling and information.