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Review: ‘Into the Woods, Jr.’ at Kensington Arts Theatre’s 2nd Stage

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Kensington Arts Theatre 2nd Stage’s Into the Woods, Jr. is a delightful romp through the forest. Perfect for a fall afternoon or evening with your kids.

Into the Woods, Jr. takes the first half of Stephen Sondheim’s iconic Into the Woods and simplifies it into the perfect material for a children’s production. The fine young actors in this show handle Sondheim’s complex lyrics and atonal melodies with aplomb.

Into the Woods. Photo by Fred Zirm.

The opening “Into the Woods” number is directed with great visual interest by Fred Zirm, who has assembled a delightful cast of performers to bring to life the intertwining stories of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, the Baker and his Wife, and Jack (of beanstalk fame). Nora Suliman stands out as the Witch in this number. Sondheim’s lyrics for her character are fast-paced and nuanced and Suliman pulls them off with ease.

Other standout performances include Fiona Bradford as Little Red Riding Hood. She displayed great stage presence throughout the show and especially in her number with fiesty wolf (Coley Ferragut) “Hello, Little Girl.” Katie Williams had an equally vibrant stage presence as the Baker’s Wife. Her facial expressions drew the audience’s attention to her whenever she was onstage.

The high point of the show was the performance of “Agony” as performed by John Lewis (Cinderella’s Prince) and Hayden Polsky (Rapunzel’s Prince). The two princes played up the comic nature of a song that laments how difficult it is to be a prince in quest of a fair maiden. John Lewis had the audience laughing again later in the show as he roamed the aisles in search of a lady whose foot would fit Cinderella’s golden shoe.

The set and lobby decorations were first -rate. Four versatile blocks onstage were easily moved by the three narrators (Natasha Chisaka, Clara Harney, Giorgia Dallasta) allowing them to become Grandma’s bed or Rapunzel’s tower. Lovely wooden cutouts in the lobby point you to the theater and create the ambiance of a deep, dark forest.

I greatly enjoyed the inclusion of “Children Will Listen” in the final bow. This is one of Sondheim’s finest songs from Into the Woods and it was a lovely way to allow this fine ensemble cast to perform the song as a group. My kids really enjoyed this show and I highly recommend it for families.

Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission.

Into the Woods, Jr. plays through October 29, 2017, at Kensington Art Theatre’s 2nd Stage, performing at the Kentlands Arts Barn – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg. For tickets, call (301) 258-6394 or go online.

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