The Arts, Etc.

Exit 7
YOUTH Players

in Ludlow, Massachusetts

Into The Woods

Presented: SPRING 2009

Review by Donna Bailey-Thompson

Rave Alert!

Blessed with the magical touch of Director/Choreographer Jenn Marshall, Exit 7 Players score again. Last year they shone in Les Miserables. Now they've topped that success with a dazzling production of another meaty musical, Into The Woods songs and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, 24 named characters and a chorus of two dozen more young actors. The result? Sweeping enchantment at a professional level.

The plot is, truly, a sophisticated hoot. All the characters have wishes. Cinderella wishes to go to the Ball. Jack's mother (he of Beanstock fame) wishes they weren't so poor. Red Riding Hood wishes there were more sweet rolls in the basket she's taking to Granny. The Baker and his wife wish they had a baby. And the Wicked Witch? She's so full of herself that the audience wishes she'd never leave the stage. However, into the woods they go where convoluted realism is punctured with parody, farce, fear, poignancy, slapstick, greed and delicious sly humor. All this and music, too. Thanks to Musical Director Devon Louise Bakum, Sondheim has never sounded better. The singers are not only pitch-perfect, their diction is sharp, and their phrasing is clear.

Wait, there's more! The set (Designer Sue Crowther; Master Carpenter Paul Hamel) blends realism with fantasy. The costume designs (borrowed from the Picturesque Peasant Period) work beautifully for the principals, the little forest people, the darling Three Little Pigs, and especially for the Witch who is a scary vision in voluminous sparkle-brightened black, stringy dirty gray hair, and an elongated nose that resembles a crooked finger. The talented costumers (Lori Rodriguez, Ann Tumavicus, Donna Major, Winnie Cardaropoli) are key components to this production's success.

What shocks is discovering the ages of this seemingly adult company from first grade to entering college freshmen. No pun intended, but there isn't a sour note in the cast. All the principals (the Witch, Monica Giordano; Baker, Colby Herchel; his Baker Wife, Naomi Leslie; Cinderella, Katie Stiefel; Jack, Gavin Mackie; Little Red, Kayla Sturgeon; and The Prince, David Webber) sing well and act convincingly, movingly, at the same time. With high standard companies like Exit 7, theater's future health is assured.


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