Monday, June 15, 2015

reviews - INTO THE WOODS - Valley Youth Theatre

Carly Copp, Michael Schulz, and Ally Lansdowne
Photo courtesy GAPMar.com
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

 "This past weekend saw the opening of Valley Youth Theatre’s ...Into the Woods......an audacious project to attempt, yet it not only rises to the occasion, there are moments when the production actually surpasses expectation.  This is great musical theatre...Into the Woods is a musical with two very distinct halves.  The first is a bright and cheery look at three interlocking Grimm’s fairy tales where characters from famous fantasies make their wishes and continually bump into each other on their journey through the woods, emerging at the other end just before the intermission with their individual happy ever afters.  But what happens after that happy ever after?...What becomes immediately obvious with this fast-paced, colorful production is just how accomplished the voices of the varied cast truly are...the concern that a complicated show with such a demanding book and score could ever be pulled off by under eighteens is completely dispelled.  By the conclusion of the opening number where the cast turn to the audience declaring they’ll all be “Home before dark,” you may find yourself wanting to leap to your feet for an early standing-o.... Mike Eddy’s atmospheric lighting, Karol Cooper’s richly detailed costumes to the eye-catching, well designed set from 3D Theatricals...all supported by an outstanding and surprisingly large orchestra under Mark Fearey’s direction.... Highlights include all ensemble numbers – the prologues and the finales of both halves are superior – plus there’s Little Red Riding Hood’s awakening 'I Know Things Now" (performed by a terrific Alex Kirby, full of great promise), Jack’s "Giants in the Sky" (Sam Primack as reliably professional as ever) the Witch’s haunting "Stay With Me" and the angry "Last Midnight" (the equally professional Carly Makani Copp) and Cinderella’s "On the Steps of the Palace" (Tatum Dial whose voice is such a delight, you may find yourself wishing for another solo)....Spencer Claus’ spats-wearing Steward wrings as much potential humor as he can while Ally Lansdowne’s spirited and very funny turn as the Baker’s Wife nicely illustrates what an accomplished comedic performer she can be without overplaying her hand.... See Into the Woods for a few reasons: 1)  Some of the cast are reaching that age cap for VYT eligibility, meaning that certain players who are fun to watch will soon be too old to be seen on this forum again – catch them while you can; 2) the singing; and 3) perhaps the best and simplest reason of all; it’s really a great show." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods is one of the cleverest musicals ever written, as well as one of the most difficult to pull off successfully....Valley Youth Theatre just opened a solid production of the musical, and the fact that the cast is composed of all teenagers shows just how stellar of an achievement that is.  Sondheim's score, which includes some of his most intricate and humorous rhyme schemes, and Lapine's book come together effortlessly in a show that has just as many comical moments as it does reflective ones. The two have seamlessly woven together familiar fairy tales that we all grew up with into a musical where the stories of Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel all interconnect with each other....The large ensemble cast is just about perfect. Michael Schulz make a charming Baker, with a sensible delivery of his lines and a lovely voice. His solo "No More" is especially touching. As his wife, Ally Lansdowne has a warm, exceptional voice and manages to bring plenty of spark to her comic lines but shows the conflicted side of her character as well. Tatum Dial makes a sweet yet sensible Cinderella, delivering a clear as a bell version of her solo song "On the Steps of the Palace."...As the Witch, Carly Copp brings the right blend of menace and comedy. She appears appropriately agitated at the humans she has to deal with and also looks quite stunning once her character experiences a transformation. Sam Primack makes for a stellar Jack. He brings a keen sense of exuberance to the part and delivers every one of his lines with the right level of care and understanding to ensure the comic ones pop and the serious ones have meaning. His excellent voice delivers an exceptional "Giants in the Sky." Alex Kirby is perfectly sweet and sassy as Little Red Riding Hood, yet also displays hints of grown-up feelings and understanding once she encounters the Wolf....Producing Artistic Director Bobb Cooper delivers clear direction of this fast-paced musical. He also ensures that his cast doesn't simply copy the recent film character portrayals or the performances of the original Broadway cast, both of which are easily available on video, instead offering some nice original performances of their own. Sondheim's score has many overlapping and intricate parts and Cooper and the cast manage their way through the score without a single hiccup, which is a huge achievement. None of the fast-paced songs are slowed down, something a less accomplished cast might resort to doing, which allows for a swift telling of the story. ...While the set is a rental from 3D Theatricals...,Tom Buderwitz's design is spectacular and shows that sometimes renting an existing set from another company, instead of building one yourself, can provide excellent results. The combination of the impressive set with the colorful and exceptional costumes from Karol Cooper, remarkable lighting from Mike Eddy, and Almir Lejlic's clear sound design make this production one that any professional theatre in town would be proud to present....With some of Sondheim's brightest gems, including the ballads "No One is Alone," and "Children Will Listen," Into the Woods is a show that also has important lessons and messages underneath the comical exterior. Even with a cast of teenagers, the Valley Youth Theatre production is able to get those messages across. With just a very few shortcomings, the combination of a very good cast, clear direction, and impressive sets, costumes, lighting and sound, make this Into the Woods an enchanting production of a most creative and ingenious musical." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)


"The Brothers Grimm populated the world of fairy tales with an assortment of characters from the angelic to the mischievous to the devilish. An imaginative fusion of the adventures of a select few is the grist for the Stephen Sondheim..and James Lapine... highly acclaimed Into the Woods....Valley Youth Theatre, under the direction of Bobb Cooper...will make you feel like you've been to the Great White Way.. has wrapped its collective arms around the musical and delivered an admirable performance, uplifted by Mark Fearey's powerhouse musical direction, stunning sets provided by 3D Theatricals, and the elaborate costumery of Karol Cooper ~ despite some opening weekend technical glitches that will likely be corrected in short order....Be ready to concentrate on the twisted plot and to discover some up and coming young talents." -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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