TheaterTheater Review

Theater Review: A Splendid ‘Into the Woods’ at the Wonder Theatre


Sami Serrano as Little Red Riding Hood and Kevin Cox as the wolf in Into the Woods at the Wonder Theatre (Siggi Ragnar).

The Wonder Theatre shows how it’s done with a perfect production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Tony award-winning musical.

Just imagine if the tales of Cinderella (Amanda Golden), the baker (Miguel Ochoa) and his wife (Kelly Petlin Beaty), Rapunzel (Laurel Neuhaus), Little Red Riding Hood (Sami Serrano) and beanstalk-climbing Jack (Jackson Gable) were all crammed together into one story. Toss in a scheming witch (Marie Bunch) who promises the aforementioned baker and spouse a child, provided that they fetch her specific materials to create a potion she needs.

This creates a scenario in which the couple must acquire Riding Hood’s “cloak as red as blood”; Rapunzel’s “hair as yellow as corn”; Cinderella’s “slipper as pure as gold” and Jack’s “cow as white as milk.” The comic possibilities are endless, and the creators take full advantage of them in the rollicking first act — and so does the Wonder team.

Other notable characters include the hilariously arrogant princes (Kevin Cox and Joseph Schuster) who lust for Cinderella and Rapunzel, Cinderella’s snobby stepmother and stepsisters (Pamela J. Sharkey, Randee Nelson, Rebecca Milligan), Jack’s anxious mother (Heather Hooten) and Cinderella’s tree spirit mother (Lindsey Van de Kirk). Cox also portrays the wolf, who is starving to have her and her grandmother (Van de Kirk again) for lunch. There’s also a strange old man (Steve Burney) who pops up every now and then to say something cryptic and seems to have a connection with both Jack and the witch. Will everybody get their “happy ever after?” According to Lapine, audiences at the original production started to leave the theater at the end of the first act, so they added “To be continued!”, pronounced by the narrator (Nick DeGraw Glavac).

Anyone familiar with the show knows that the second act certainly takes a tonal shift. Are the wishes that have been granted all they’re cracked up to be? The Wonder ensemble handles this transition superbly, as the characters make a believable transformation from comic to dramatic and well…more human.

Director Rick Sanchez ties it all together beautifully. His work is supported by Benjamin Grabill’s marvelous sets (with Chris Rutz’s attractive scenic artwork), along with the amusing costuming by Marshall Chase and wig and makeup design by Brandilynn Stillwell. Darrin Newhardt’s seven-piece orchestra sounds fantastic, accompanied by Lizel Sandoval’s energetic choreography. The lighting and sound design by Nathan Thurman and Benjamin Farrar put the gleaming finishing touches on the show. A special shout-out goes to Elizabeth Dapo for her Milky White puppet design. The Wonder’s ensemble cast is terrific as well, and they’re all in fine voice. As a matter of fact, when the 20-plus performers all harmonize together, it’s goosebump-worthy.

If you’re a fan of the show, go see this production. If you’ve never seen it before, go see this production.

Into the Woods plays Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. from Sept. 9-24 at the Woodlawn Theatre, 1920 Fredericksburg Road. Tickets are available online. Community appreciation nights are Sept. 15 (ASL Night); Sept. 22 (Pride Night); and Sept. 23 (Military and First Responders Night).

Feature photo by Siggi Ragnar.