Review: A dark fairy tale adventure, ‘Into the Woods’

Tazia Murie takes center stage as Cinderella in St. George Musical Theater's production of "Into the Woods," St. George, Utah, August, 2016 | Still image from Mike Crockett Digital Studios, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — St. George Musical Theater has opened its 2016-17 season with the most ambitious production they have ever staged: the beloved fairy tale saga “Into the Woods.”

The story follows classic fairy tale characters on a journey through the woods as they each set out to make their wishes come true. Cinderella wishes to attend the king’s festival; Jack wishes his cow would give some milk; and anchoring the plotline is a baker and his wife who wish to have a child.

Video screenshot: Brennan Walters as Jack and Katie Wood as Jack's Mother in St. George Musical Theater's production of "Into the Woods," St. George, Utah, August, 2016 | Still image from Mike Crockett Digital Studios, St. George News
Video screenshot: Brennan Walters as Jack and Katie Wood as Jack’s Mother in St. George Musical Theater’s production of “Into the Woods,” St. George, Utah, August, 2016 | Still image from Mike Crockett Digital Studios, St. George News

Wishes abound in the Tony Award-winning book and score written by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, respectively. Jack’s mother wishes for riches (among other things); Rapunzel wishes to see the world; The wolf wishes for lunch; Little Red Riding Hood wishes for adventure; a pair of charming princes wish to woo their women; and a sinister witch wishes for the return of her lost beauty.

As characters venture into the woods for their very own wish fulfillments, delightful and telling comedy of errors unfold on the stage.

St. George Musical Theater is in what Executive Director Bruce Bennett called its third comeback season at its permanent home in the St. George Opera House. The charming venue offers a small, in-the-round style theater that allows the audience an intimate look into the story. In the case of “Into the Woods,” it is almost as if the viewer is traveling the same familiar path that Little Red takes to visit her hungry granny.

That familiarity is aided in part by the production’s popularity among musical theater buffs as well as the recent feature film adaptation that hosts a plethora of Hollywood’s biggest names.

But St. George Musical Theater keeps the production  of “Into the Woods” fresh with excellent lighting and projection techniques that enhance the ambience as well as some stunning special effects. Look for a magically transforming dress that seemingly defies the capability you might expect from a community theater.

St. George Musical Theater veteran Ryan Norton directed the ambitious production. It is obvious he had a clear vision of how “Into the Woods” should look and feel. There are no dance scenes but it isn’t a stretch to say much of the staging felt beautifully choreographed to make the most of the theater’s unique performance space.

Equally strong in his leadership role is music director Norm Lister. The majority of “Into the Woods” is told through song and Sondheim’s lyrics often sound like an impossible tongue twister. It is a credit to both Lister and the cast that the lyrics were clearly enunciated and well sung.

Video screenshot: BJ Cox as the Baker and Rachel Cox as the Baker's Wife in St. George Musical Theater's production of "Into the Woods," St. George, Utah, August, 2016 | Still image from Mike Crockett Digital Studios, St. George News
Video screenshot: BJ Cox as the Baker and Rachel Cox as the Baker’s Wife in St. George Musical Theater’s production of “Into the Woods,” St. George, Utah, August, 2016 | Still image from Mike Crockett Digital Studios, St. George News

“Into the Woods” boasts an impressive and vibrant cast, all with varying musical theater and performance backgrounds. A few personal favorites are Chrissy Rogers as The Witch, Katie Gardner as Little Red Riding Hood and BJ and Rachel Cox as the Baker and the Baker’s Wife.

Each actor added their own personal touch to their character without sacrificing what fans have come to love about the fairy tale mash-up that is “Into the Woods.”

St. George Musical Theater favorite Tazia Murie who was an absolute standout in last year’s production of “West Side Story” in her role as Anita returns to the stage as Cinderella for this production and steals the show. I am pretty sure the role was tailor-made for Murie who plays the indecisive scullery maid-come-princess with equal parts quiet charm and confidence.

Murie’s vocals were on point throughout and though all of the cast have beautiful voices I found myself wishing that they all sang with the same gusto that Murie put into each of her songs.

The show is divided into two distinct sections. The second part deals with the disastrous consequences of what happens when everyone is granted their wish.

While the first section of the production is lighter and more humorous, the second half packs much more of an emotional punch. It is easy to get the feeling that the fairy tale has gone awry … has somehow grown up.

There is very little to complain about in this production. If I were to get nitpicky I would say that The Wolf”s hair gets a little too wayward during “Hello, Little Girl.” I got distracted counting how many times Matt Setoki, who plays The Wolf, had to brush it from his face.

In contrast, Setoki also plays Rapunzel’s Prince and he uses his hair to great effect in that role.

Seating is comfortable enough although the Opera House did get quite warm during the production and some guests complained that they were seated behind part of the set and their view was impaired.

Overall, “Into the Woods” is an entertaining production that takes the audience on a wonderful adventure where it seems as if anything can happen.

“Into the Woods” plays Thursdays-Saturdays and Mondays at 7:30 p.m. through Sept. 17. A matinee performance will take place Saturday at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office on the night of the show from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

The cast of St. George Musical Theater's production of "Into the Woods," takes the stage, St. George, Utah, August, 2016 | Still image from Mike Crockett Digital Studios, St. George News
The cast of St. George Musical Theater’s production of “Into the Woods,” takes the stage, St. George, Utah, August, 2016 | Still image from Mike Crockett Digital Studios, St. George News

Event details

  • What: St. George Musical Theater’s production of “Into the Woods”
  • When: Thursdays-Saturdays and Mondays until Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m. | A matinee will be held Saturday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m.
  • Where: St. George Opera House, 212 N. Main St., St. George
  • Cost: $16-$20
  • Purchase tickets: Online | At the box office on the night of the show from 6:30-7:30 p.m.
  • Additional information: If you have difficulty purchasing tickets online, please call:  435-628-8755

Email: hreina@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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