Annapolis Opera’s production of Into the Woods is an emotionally thrilling evening of glorious music and singing, combined with creative lighting, scenery, and sound effects. Directed by Dean Anthony, with Craig Kier conducting the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Stephen Sondheim’s musical about fairy tales and the unforeseen costs of wishes comes to life in Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts’ Main Theater.
Patrick Kilbride plays the Baker with an emotional honesty, an ordinary man trying to do his best in the face of curses, magic beans, and giants. Colleen Daly brings a practicality to his Wife, willing to trade beans for Jack’s (Matthew Hill) cow to help fulfill the magic potion, against Kilbride’s objections. Their duet “It Takes Two” is a lovely reconciliation, bringing them together to accomplish their wish. “No More” is Kilbride’s most powerful performance, with sadness and exhaustion leading to determination. Daly’s strongest performance is in “Moments in the Woods,” filled with surprise and joy before tragedy strikes.
Matthew Hill plays Jack with a joyful exuberance, allowing for great comedy. He sings a tearful farewell to his cow in “I Guess This Is Goodbye.” Climbing up a giant beanstalk, he gives joy at a new adventure in “Giants in the Sky.” Diana Dimarzio plays Jack’s Mother with an immense practicality and need, upset at his trading the cow for “magic beans.”
Emma Grimsley gives a deep loneliness to Cinderella, filling “Cinderella at the Grave” with longing, as her Mother “Jesse Mashburn” sings comfortingly. In “A Very Nice Prince” she sings ambivalently of her wish in sight, while in “On the Steps of the Palace” she wonders if this is indeed what she really wants. Her later spoken scene with her Prince (Paul La Rosa) is deeply moving.
Natasha Ramirez Farr as Cinderella’s Stepmother and Patricia Hengen and Erin Ridge as her stepsisters are deliciously wicked, with great comic timing as they try to fit into the glass slippers and their punishment for tormenting Cinderella.
Kylee Hope Geraci plays Little Red Riding Hood with an innocence at first, then turning to cheerful determination, pulling out a comically large switchblade at every opportunity. In “I Know Things Now” she joyously reveals her newfound experience.
Paul La Rosa has a deep, rich, seductive voice that hides trouble. As the Wolf, he gives “Hello, Little Girl” an animal passion, howling at the end. As Cinderella’s Prince, he infuses his lines with comic drama. Brandon Lockhart does much the same as Rapunzel’s Prince. La Rosa and Lockhart’s duet, “Agony,” is hilarious in describing their romantic troubles.
Denique Isaac has a marvelous voice as Rapunzel. She sings operatically throughout Act One while weeping dramatically in Act Two. Her spoken scene with the Witch (Arianna Zukerman) is deeply emotional, revealing a depth of feeling.
Arianna Zuckerman brings a complexity to the Witch. “Stay with Me” is full of longing and emotion for Rapunzel, in between her dragging the beautifully-haired woman across the stage. She dominates the stage in “Last Midnight” reflecting on the impossible moral choices the others are unwilling to make.
Dean Anthony gives vigorous energy as the Narrator, introducing the story and providing helpful transitions during scene changes. As the Mysterious Man, he is gruff and enigmatic, offering surprising revelations to Jack and the Baker. In “No More” he reveals a depth and love previously unseen.
The set, by StageCraft Theatricals, is cleverly mobile, with three small backdrops for Cinderella, Jack, and The Baker’s homes, each different enough to be immediately recognizable. Rolling platforms serve for Cinderella’s Mother’s statue and Rapunzel’s tower. The Narrator sits in a comfortable red chair just beyond the stage, a small lectern in front of him. The woods are tinged with green and hints of classical structures.
Costume Designer Glenn Avery Breed has created outfits that help distinguish the large cast of characters. The Baker is in brown tones, while Jack is in greens. Cinderella begins in rags before changing into a beautiful white gown and later a yellow dress, while her stepmother and stepsisters are in elegant dresses of pinks, blues, and greens. The Witch starts in ragged furs before transforming to a sparkly dark gown. Little Red Riding Hood is dressed all in red, from her famous cloak to a skirt and socks, apart from a gray fur shawl. The Wolf wears a plaid jacket and boots over a furry costume. Wig and Makeup Designer Priscilla Bruce helps keep the characters colorful and distinguished, including Rapunzel’s locks.
Lighting Designer Christopher Brusberg uses light to enhance the dramatic effects. A red light bathes the stage when the Wolf speaks with Red Riding Hood. Cinderella’s Mother is cast in green light, making her appear supernatural. The Witch’s magic feats are accompanied by twinkling lights. Director Dean Anthony uses Music Theater International’s sound cues to announce Act Two’s big bad with deep rumbling and walking sounds, among other effects.
Craig Kier conducts the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra with great energy and attention. At times, the music overwhelms the singing, making it difficult to understand Sondheim’s clever lyrics. Dean Anthony does a wonderful job as director. The singers navigate the stage and each other perfectly, with lots of movement. They capture the emotional range of the songs and the story, from comedy to heartbreak; “No One Is Alone” is particularly moving. The last performance is the matinee Sunday, March 20; be sure to catch it if you want to find out what happens “Ever After”!
Running Time: Approximately 3 hours, including a 20-minute intermission.
Into the Woods plays through March 20, 2022, presented by Annapolis Opera performing at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts – 901 Chase Street in Annapolis, MD. For tickets ($28–$100), call the box office at 410-280-5640 or purchase online.
The Into the Woods playbill is online here.
Annapolis Opera’s COVID Safety Policy is here.