The Actors Co-op at the Crossley Theatre has pulled off a 99-seat miracle: a full, rich production of a major musical in a small venue. Sixteen actors and three musicians, aided by lush production values under producer David Schall, bring “Into the Woods” to life in the intimate setting.
The play itself demands much: a large cast with strong singing voices, precise blocking and choreography, fast pacing that brings out both humor and sweetness, extensive costuming and colorful scenery. It all comes to be under director Robin Strand.
The play explores people’s relationship to fairy tales, and Stephen Sondheim’s subtle melodies and lyrics are filled with layers of feeling. James Lapine’s book gives each act a spine.
As the witch, Janet Carroll not only excels in singing her part but also shows at heart a woman who wants love from the child she stole.
Six others also particularly shine: Thomas Hillman as the simpleton Jack; Shirley Anne Harrison as the baker’s wife whose perseverance drives her family; Chris Salmon as Little Red Riding Hood, who makes a great adult-as-little-girl; Elizabeth Prescott as a Cinderella who discovers how to be more than a princess; and Perry Stephen and Mark Henderson as the two princes who manage to poke fun at the cliche of being male. The latter’s duet on the song “Agony” brings a heavenly harmony to angst.
The set design by Tim Farmer and Mark Henderson makes efficient use of the stage. TeresaKlorer’s inventive choreography is terrific. The lavish and creative costumes by A. Jeffery Schoenberg, Elizabeth Eckhardt and Shon LeBlanc, would easily fit in a major production. Alan Falkner’s intricate lighting changes subtly with the mood and scene.
Musical director Darrin Degenhardt presents first-class work. His two fellow musicians, uncredited, serve fabulous live music.