SRO presents a stunning ‘Into the Woods’

UPDATE: A performance has been added at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 25).

Reviewed by Tony Villecco

SRO Productions III is giving Southern Tier residents a great big gift for having to endure a long, cold spell of nasty weather. A word of advice, though: Get your tickets immediately, because this production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods is that good. A capacity audience on opening night Friday ( Jan. 19) was treated to some exceptional local talent mastering the musical’s very complex score.

How does one begin to explain the fairytale-based plot without giving too much away? Let it suffice that the storylines are thought-provoking, often asking some of life’s most challenging questions but not necessarily supplying the answers. Be careful what you wish for certainly is an underlying theme, begging the question: Are we happier when we get what we thought we desired?

The production design is magnificent with lovely silhouetted trees, singing birds and several platforms upon which are presented the busy action of the characters and their stories. Credit goes to Gene Czebiniak (set designer) and Joe Roma (technical director/lighting designer) as well as to costumers Jan McMahon and Wilfred McDaniels. The audience is literally part of the woods as scenes flash from station to station with clever stage direction by Scott Fisher. Pam Ondrusek is the show’s producer.

In such a large cast it is almost impossible in the confines of a review to single out every performer. Suffice it to say each part was cast very well, and there were indeed some stand-out performances. The roles of the Baker and his wife were performed by Eric Bill and Megan Germond, who were both excellent. Germond has a lovely and pleasing tone, and Bill managed to bring out great pathos from his dilemma.

The two princes always seem to steal the show, and Vito Longo and Andrew Simek did not disappoint in sexy leather attire probably more appropriate in Fifty Shades of Grey. Both sang well in their over-the-top duets, and Simek sauntered around like the town stud, which was very comical. He is an excellent vocalist.

The show’s narrator, who is the glue of the production, was Shan Towns, who acquitted himself with distinction. Maureen Dancesia was a sympathetic Cinderella with a lovely tone. Anna Simek and Annie Graham were effective as her nasty stepsisters, and their conniving and sadistic mother (wait for the slipper scene) was Laura Liburdi.

Connor Kabat made a charming Jack (of beanstalk fame), whose doting mother was played by Shirley Goodman. Kaylea Lockwood was the somewhat meaner the usual Red Riding Hood in a good performance, and the nasty wolf was done with precision by Jeff Tagliaferro. Wendy Germond had the dual roles as the grandmother and the terrifying giant.

As Rapunzel, Jenny Gac displayed a clear, clean soprano and managed to showcase her character’s comedy as well as her sudden anger at discovering what had happened to her at the hands of her mother, the witch (Dominique Lazaros). Lazaros’ characterization was spot-on, capturing the dichotomy of her viciousness and her lonely sorrow at the prospect of losing her daughter.

Bill Snyder, the Mysterious Man, was sensitive to the dilemma he has been put in. His commentaries on forgiveness, loss and redemption – “honor your mistakes,” for example — we all ponder in our own way. Two lines from other characters also caught my attention: “Stay a child while you can be a child” and “Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.” Both can apply to our daily lives as well as the lives of our cast of characters.

Go see Into the Woods while the show has tickets left. The ensemble will surely refresh your winter-worn spirits as well as give you many things to think about.

IF YOU GO: Performances are 2 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 21) and Jan. 28 and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Jan 26 and 27) at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage, 46-48 Willow St., Johnson City. Tickets: $22 (students/seniors, $20) at www.sroproductionsonline.com.

 

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