Solvang Festival Theater has re-opened after a five million dollar improvement project. The first show to play in the refurbished space is PCPA’s production of Into the Woods, the well-loved Stephen Sondheim musical. This mash-up of fairy tales brings Cinderella, Beanstalk Jack, Red Riding Hood, and others to the stage for an adventure that has the characters facing a series of fantastical feats, including dispelling a curse and fighting a giant.
While the recognizable content makes this musical widely accessible, the complex musicality offers even the most devoted theater goer a thrill. PCPA’s production (directed by Roger DeLaurier, in his last show before retirement) is likable and well-produced. Ekaterina Bouras as Red Riding Hood is hilariously fierce, and George Walker infuses a bittersweet angst into his role as the baker. The night sky over the amphitheater is a perfect background for a musical that takes place almost entirely out in the woods, and the theatrical lighting is rich and playful.
The fare, derived from children’s folklore, is deceptively light. True, it’s filled with comedic characters and moments —the travails of the two princes, played by Yusef Seevers and Garrett Haven, come to mind — but there are levels of emotional understanding. Deeper meditations about the parent-child relationship and the loss of naiveté are woven throughout the narrative, as is the theme of the consequences of wish-fulfillment and the realities of “happily ever after.”
Into the Woods is suitable for (older) children in terms of the mild content, though the three hour length made for several restless kids in the audience. Keep that in mind when planning your family trip to the theater (and remember to bring a blanket — it gets cold when the sun goes down). Otherwise, PCPA’s production of Into the Woods is a perfect summer bucket-list item for anyone who enjoys live performance under the stars.
Into the Woods is on view through September 4 at Solvang Festival Theater, pcpa.org/events/into-the-woods-solvang-2022-08-11-800-pm/.