By SAMANTHA PIDDE
Timber Lake Playhouse's third production of the 2019 season, "Into The Woods," provides an enjoyable look into classic fairytales.
The musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine takes a look at wishing and what happens after "happily ever after." Whimsical, funny, dramatic and thought provoking, the musical weaves an entertaining fairy tale while cautioning audience members to be careful of their wishes. The TLP cast does an excellent job bringing this tale to life.
Guest performer Altamiece Carolyn Cooper (through the Actors' Equity Association) brings a wonderful, versatile portrayal as the Witch. Transitioning from a source of humor to the voice of wisdom and reason, her performance is fantastic. Cooper shines during her songs, particularly "Stay With Me" and "Last Midnight."
Resident performers Dalton Mathis and Rebecca Marowitz are great together as the Baker and the Baker's Wife. Both give solid performances and show great character growth separately. They show great chemistry together, especially during "It Takes Two."
Resident performers Michel Vasquez, Olivia Belfie and Ben Dow are all great as Cinderella, Little Red and Jack. Vasquez is splendid as the less than confident Cinderella, shining in "On the Steps of the Palace.”
Belfie is superb as the precocious and hungry Little Red, giving a wonderful performance in "I Know Things Now." Dow's rendition of "Giants in the Sky" is fantastic and his version of Jack is the perfect combination of young, adventurous, foolish and ultimately likable. The three of them, along with Mathis' Baker, give a haunting and beautiful rendition of "No One is Alone."
Guest performer Mardi Huffstutler does an excellent job as Jack's Mom and resident performer Evan Vertram is wonderful as Rapunzel/Cinderella's Mother. Conor Jordan and Logan Dolence, both resident performers, are both wonderfully over-the-top as the arrogant and vain Cinderella's Prince and Rapunzel's Prince.
Like any fairytale, "Into the Woods" would not be complete without a good narrator and resident performer James Tweedale is just that as Narrator/Mystery Man. As he points out in the story itself, the characters need a narrator (until they do not) and Tweedale brings a great deal of wit and humor to the role.
The production is rounded out by the wonderful performances of the rest of the cast, including: Jean Christian Barry as Cinderella's Father/Grandmother; Emma Buchanan as Lucinda; Rachel Davenport as Step Mother; Rory Schrobilgen as Steward; Anna Catherine Smith as Florinda; and Blake West as Wolf.
"Into The Woods" also is memorable for its wonderful music. Song range from hilarious to sad, to introspective. and to hopeful and wise. Just a few of the many excellent songs include "Act I Opening (Into the Woods)" "Agony," "Hello Little Girl," "It Takes Two," "Giants in the Sky," "Moments in the Woods," "Your Fault" and "Act II Finale (Children will Listen)."
This wonderful music would not be possible without the orchestra, directed conducted by Michael McBride. Orchestra members include McBride on keyboard one; Grace Shelly on drums/percussion; Melody Walker on violin; Kelsy Boltz and Kelsee Vandervall on cello; Glen O'Fallon on bass; Denise Deter on flute and piccolo; Emily Nunemaker on clarinet; and Mike McCoy and Jack Ripley on trumpet.
TLP Artistic Director Paul Stancato does an excellent job as director and choreographer and David Goldstein brings the stories to life as scenic designer.
The production would not have been possible without the hard work of Costume Designer Zandra Siple; Lighting Designer Ben Danielowski; Sound Designer Kristina Parker; Technical Director Addison Calvin; Props Designer Mitchell Snow; Wig and Make-up Designer Jasmine Elam, Production Stage Manager Laura Krouch and crews.
Unlike some of the wishes within the story, TLP's production of "Into the Woods" is a wish with a happy ending. Those with a free evening will not be disappointed.
"Into the Woods" is showing at the playhouse in rural Mount Carroll through Sunday, July 14. Tickets are available online at timberlakeplayhouse.org or by calling the box office at 815-244-2035. The box office is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.