Into the Woods, produced by Y-NOT Student Productions. At the Marjorie Luke Theatre, Saturday, August 12.
Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko
Putting on a musical is a significant project: the costumes, lighting, cast, music, and singing all combine to make it a formidable event. When it all works, it’s a magical experience. This summer, Y-NOT Student Productions took on the challenge for the second consecutive time with the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods. Y-NOT was founded to provide a means for high school- to college-age actors to participate in all aspects of production, from painting sets and making costumes, to singing and conducting. Their foray “into the woods” proved that great theater has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with sweat, talent, passion, and great performances.
Into the Woods was a Tony winner when it was first presented on Broadway in 1987, and these actors did the show justice with heartfelt and polished performances. The story was filled with humor and pathos, as well as love and tragedy. Woods interweaves a number of fairy tales into a single story where the characters meet in the woods. A fickle Cinderella (played by Juliana Ilvento) dashed from her prince (Michael Hanson). Rapunzel’s lilting voice (Olivia Knuedsen-Figueroa) charmed a prince played by Chase Hay. A hapless Jack, played by Connor Fatch, chases giants. Little Red Riding Hood (Cara Williams) runs from a leering, innuendo-laden wolf played by Alex Hawkins. An endearingly spineless baker (Zach Reino) and his wife (Julie Holst) struggle to lift a family curse laid down by a witch, played by Hannah Elliott with just the right amount of derision. As befitting a musical, there was also an orchestra, ably conducted by Michael Kiyoi.
Although we often use the cliché of “a fairytale ending” to describe saccharine happiness, the original fairy tales frequently featured dark endings. The close of the first act gave the impression of a happy ending to the threads of the interwoven fairy tales, but the second act revealed the dark side of dreams come true as princes stray, giants seek revenge, and even narrators are dispensable.
The performance was a benefit for Cottage Hospital’s Children’s Hospital. Producer (and mysterious man) Travis Elconin, director (and prince) Michael Hanson, and the entire company, succeeded on all counts. If we’re lucky, we’ll see the members of Y-NOT on stage again next year.