A vocally strong cast goes ‘Into the Woods’ at Creative Cauldron

Standouts included the Baker, the Prince, the Baker’s Wife, the Witch, the Narrator, and the Mysterious Man.

For those of us who’ve seen Into the Woods a fair number of times, we tend to look beyond the musical itself: We look for ways that the production defines the depth and resonance of the characters and how it interprets the impeccable music that is Sondheim. As written, Into the Woods provides us with the story and sentiment that, while not all endings are happy, “no one is alone.” Creative Cauldron’s production directed by Matt Connor supplied the audience with a talented cast to bring the story to life.

Susan Derry, Chad Wheeler, and the Cast of ‘Into the Woods.’ Photo by William Gallagher.

Particular standouts included John Loughney, who brought a richness of character to the role of the Baker, and Santiago Alfonzo Meza, who truly charmed the audience as Cinderella’s Prince. As the Baker’s Wife, Erin Granfield was the perfect blend of practicality mixed with poignancy, and her voice was simply lovely. Witch Susan Derry’s “Stay With Me” was a wonderful enactment of the song and conveyed the tenderness of a mother’s plea to shelter her child. And Chad Wheeler was enjoyable as both the Narrator and Mysterious Man.

The set designed by Margie Jervis consisted of levels of steps and a mainstay castle-ruin wall, an environment that worked well for the characters and the story. The actors were able to move in and around it with ease. Additionally, the orchestra, led by Musical Director Elisa Roseman, deserves praise for mastering a difficult Sondheim score and adding to the experience.

Santiago Alfonzo Meza, Brooke Bloomquist, Erin Granfield, and John Loughney in ‘Into the Woods.’ Photo by William Gallagher.

Director Matt Connor wrote in the program notes that they were trying to convey a “timelessness” in the characters by incorporating both modern and traditional outfits. However, the mix appeared a bit bewildering. While Cinderella’s ball gown properly adorned a princess, her peasant outfit looked more like a casual beach garment. Moreover, Lucinda and Florinda wore things like futuristic metallic leggings, which would have been fine had the rest of the show kept consistent with a more modern theme. Instead, they just looked out of place and were somewhat distracting. That said, Costume Designer Margie Jervis created an innovative and really effective choice for the character of the Witch: a mask and cloak used to create an almost forestlike creature of the woods before her transformation near the end of Act I.

Some of the cast doublings seemed a little confusing. For instance, actress Amber Gibson played both Jack’s Mother and Cinderella’s Stepmother. Gibson’s performance as Jack’s Mother was absolutely lovely, and while there was no doubt about her versatility, the duality seemed a little awkward given that usually the two are on stage at the same time during the Into the Woods montages. Additionally, Brett Klock, the actor who wonderfully portrayed Jack, was also cast as the Royal Steward, and that did not seem to work, if for none other than the obvious reason that Jack’s Mother is killed by the Steward.

Santiago Alfonzo Meza and Ashley Nguyen in ‘Into the Woods.’ Photo by William Gallagher.

But all things considered, the whole cast was extremely talented, with great vocals and witty line delivery, affording the audience lovely “moments” spent in the woods.

Running Time: Three and a half hours with a 15-minute intermission.

Into the Woods plays through May 29, 2022, (Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm), at Creative Cauldron – 410 South Maple Avenue, Retail 116, Falls Church, VA. Tickets (adults $40, students $25) are available online.

COVID Safety: All patrons must wear masks. Social distancing between parties and proof of vaccination or negative COVID test within 24 hours of the performance is required for everyone age 5 and over. Creative Cauldron’s complete COVID-19 Protocols are here.

Into the Woods
Book by James Lapine
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Matt Conner
Music Director: Elisa Rossman
Scenic and Costume Designer: Margie Jervis
Lighting Designer: Lyn Joslin
With:
Susan Derry as The Witch, John Loughney as The Baker, Erin Granfield as The Baker’s Wife, and Amber Gibson as Jack’s Mother/Evil Stepmother. Chad Wheeler as the Narrator/Mysterious Man, Brett Klock as Jack/Steward, Brooke Bloomquist as Cinderella/Red Riding Hood’s Granny, Holly Kelly as Rapunzel/Cinder’s Mother, Bobby Libby as Rapunzel’s Prince, Santiago Alfonzo Meza as Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf, Ashley Nguyen as Little Red, and Rachel Lockett as Florinda and Angelica Miguel as Lucinda.

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Dana Roberts is a Fairfax County Middle School English Teacher. She has an undergraduate degree in Sociology with a minor in Music Education and Flute and Voice from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a graduate degree in Special Education from George Mason University. She has been an actress in theater in the DC Metro Area since the age of 5, and has been a member of the Fairfax Choral Society, Cathedral Choral Society, the Reston Chorale, and is currently a member of the Alexandria Singers. She is also a member of the National Council for Teachers of English, the National Education Association, and the Council for Exceptional Children, as well as a past member of the Alexandria Singers Board of Directors. Currently she lives in Leesburg, VA, with her husband and her two beagles, Riley and Paisley.

1 COMMENT

  1. Any thoughts as to why the doubling of roles is actually set by the rights company, not the director? In a time of Covid, where people are trying to limit the number of actors onstage?
    They had to reduce the company to make it safe, and this reduction wasn’t the choice of the Cauldron, but of the rights holders.

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