Be careful what you wish for: these are words that each central character in Santa Barbara High’s full production of Into the Woods should have abided by. The story is first set in motion by the Narrator (Griffin Saxon, also the Mysterious Man) and then the wishes are heard—Cinderella’s (Allison Lewis) is to go to the King’s Festival, Jack’s (Aaron Linker) is for his cow, Milky White’s (Malcom McCarthy) is to produce milk and the Baker (David Schaeman) and his Wife’s (McKenna Mender) wish is for a child. And so, each set out into the woods for the fulfillment of their wish. With the typical fairytale struggle, the characters each eventually find their own “happily ever after,” by the end of the first act. At that point, Jack and his Mother (Mary Cusimano) are well-off. Cinderella and Rapunzel (Emma Robins) have each found their Princes (Emilio Madrid-Kuser and Clayton Barry, respectively), and the Baker and his Wife have gotten their child. So, what’s Act Two for? Well, wishes do have their consequences. And even the Narrator, once in control of the story, now finds himself ensnared in its intertwined parts.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, these numbers are no simple melodies. As composer/lyricist for such musicals as Follies, Sweeney Todd and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sondheim is well known in the musical theatre world. Santa Barbara High has put its best voices forward to tackle these complex songs. Within the first scene, which all transpires through song, each actor had already enchanted the audience with the three vignettes of Cinderella, Jack and the Baker and his Wife.
Perhaps the most interesting character in this show is the Woods itself. It provides the background for all the characters’ chance meetings, meetings that soon twist all of their stories together. Going into the woods changes the characters, and we see their desires turn to memories, all in one act. And, once the Narrator is out of the picture, the stories really start to warp. Sweet Little Red Riding Hood (Hope Saxon), with her occasional tantrums, turns into a force to be reckoned with, equipped as she is with a wolf-skin cloak and a knife. The “faithful” Baker’s Wife has an adventure with Cinderella’s Prince, and the Witch (MacKenzie Zisser) regains her youth and beauty in exchange for giving away her black magical powers, yet she still cannot regain the love of her adopted, or rather stolen, daughter, Rapunzel, who has been kept in a tower most of her life. But even after all of the once “nice” fairytales have become dark and dystopian, can the remaining characters still find the elusive, wished-for “happily ever after”? Well, you’ll have to go Into the Woods to find out.