REVIEW: Into the Woods (Porchlight Music Theatre)

Enchanted cast serves up skewered storybook characters

 Jeny Wasilewski as Little Red Ridinghood, Henry Michael Odum as Narrator, Steve Best as The Baker

 
Porchlight Music Theatre presents
 
Into the Woods
 
Book by James Lapine
Music/Lyrics by
Stephen Sondheim 
Directed by
L. Walter Stearns
Music Direction by Eugene Dizon
at
Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
through May 30th | tickets: $38 | more info

By Katy Walsh

What happens after happily everafter? What is next after Cinderella gets married, Jack kills the giant, Rapunzel has short hair? Porchlight Music Theatre presents the Tony Award-winning musical, Into The Woods. The baker learns his witch-of-a neighbor has cursed him with infertility. To break the barren spell, the baker is instructed by the  Rachel Quinn as Cinderellawitch to produce a red cape, golden slipper, white cow and blonde hair strands. He and his wife go into the woods to secure the hex-breaking ingredients. Among the trees, they find storybook characters struggling with their own predetermined storybook ending. Into The Woods intersects multiple fairytale classics to create non-traditional ever-afters.

The set designed by Ian Zywica establishes the woods location. Although the five piece orchestra is visibly on stage, they vanish just beyond a hill and bramble. Center stage is a large full moon-shaped screen doubling as forest projections and shadowboxing scenes (designed by Liviu Pasare). The multi-media effect adds a mystical quality for dead people speaking or being regurgitated. Although simplistic, it has all the makings for a magical forest for close encounters of the fable kind.

Under the direction of Artistic Director L. Walter Stearns, the talented ensemble cast are enchanting(!). Bethany Thomas (witch) is spellbindingly marvelous belting out the punch line and song. Her rendition of “Children Will Listen” is an inspiring memorable moment. With exaggerated prince-like debonair, Cameron Brune and William Travis Taylor are hilarious leaping in and out of scenes. Their double duet of “Agony” is suave buffoonery, as Taylor quips, “I was taught to be charming not sincere.” Although sometimes overpowered by the band, Jeny Wasilewski (Red Riding Hood) sings and skips with spunky determination. Channeling Amy Adams’ “Enchanted” performance, Rachel Quinn (Cinderella) is a wistful and underwhelmed target of the prince’s affection. Steve Best and Brianna Borger (Baker/Baker’s Wife) sing an amusing duet of marital expectations. The large cast adds harmonious voice to the finale… both of them.

Cameron Brune as Rapunzel's Prince and William Travis Taylor as Cinderella's Prince Cameron Brune as The Wolf and Jeny Wasilewski as Little Red Ridinghood
Henry Michael Odum as Mysterious Man Steve Best as The Baker and Brianna Borger as The Baker's Wife Rachel Quinn as Cinderella and Jeny Wasilewski as Little Red Ridinghood

Initially, Into The Woods is a clever and witty flashback to childhood stories. In a ninety minute first act, playwright James Lapine succinctly intertwines various fairytales with additions of each character’s back story. The happily-ever-after finale is amusing, satisfying and surprising. The projected words “to be continued” initiates a program book revisit. Apparently, something does happens after ‘happily ever after.’ Act II starts where the traditional fairytale ends. The results are less than whimsical with a giant’s village domination, philandering spouses, and serial killing. It’s a harsh twist for following your dream. Sure, there are adult lessons to be learned about the consequences of pursuing your heart’s desire. It’s called reality. I prefer to keep my childhood heroes in a perpetual state of Act I make believe.

 
   
Rating: ★★★
    
    

 

Kristen Leia Freilich as Jack's Mother and Scott J. Sumerak as Jack Bethany Thomas as The Witch

 

Continue reading

Sunday Night Sondheim: Everybody Says Don’t

Here’s 2 separate versions of Stephen Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle.

 

 

Regine Velasquez sings “Everybody Says Don’t”

 


 

Lea Salonga also sings “Everybody Says Don’t”

Ravinia concert schedule released – partial listing

ravinia pavilion

Ravinia has announced its complete lineup for 2010 featuring 117 events and more new faces than ever before. BUY TICKETS NOW by supporting* the not-for-profit festival. Public sales begins April 22 exclusively at www.ravinia.org

Here’s a partial listing of (possible) concerts/performances that theatre-goers might be interested in.  Entire schedule here.

 

JUNE Performances

6/4
Chicago Children’s Choir

6/6
Earth, Wind & Fire

6/10 and 6/11
Concert Dance, Inc./World Premieres

6/12
Steve Martin Performing With The Steep Canyon Rangers

6/17
Backstreet Boys

6/27
Bobby Mcferrin

 

JULY Performances

7/3
A Prairie Home Companion/Garrison Keillor

7/10
Cheap Trick/Squeeze

7/11
CSO/Gershwin Concerto In F/Copland
Appalachian Spring/Bernstein Symphony No. 2

7/14
The Swell Season from the Oscar-Winner Film Once

7/17 and  7/18
Sting / Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra

7/20
Peter And Paul Pay Tribute To Mary

7/21
The B-52s

7/23
CSO/Eschenbach Plays Mozart/Hits From Bernstein’s Candide

7/30
The Music Of Abba (Lawn Screen)

7/31
CSO/Sondheim Hits/Patti Lupone, Audra Mcdonald, George Hearn, Michael Cerveris/Gala Concert

 

AUGUST Performances

8/2
Chanticleer

8/4
Broadway Star Kelli O’Hara, One-Woman Show

8/7
CSO/Così Fan Tutte, Matinee

8/8
CSO/The Marriage Of Figaro, Matinee

8/13
CSO/Annie Get Your Gun

8/14 – 8/15  (3 separate shows)
Patti Lupone/Brian Stokes Mitchell

8/22
Crosby, Stills & Nash

8/25
Swingin Balladeer Tony Andriacchi

8/29
Carrie Underwood

9/1
An Evening With The Beach Boys

9/6
Labor Day Spectacular/"1812" with Cannons

9/7
Hershey Felder In Maestro: The Art And Music Of Leonard Bernstein

ravinia banner

       

REVIEW: An Evening with LuPone and Patinkin (BIC)

Let the pros show you how it’s done

 

patti-mandy

Broadway in Chicago presents:

An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin

Conceived by Mandy Patinkin and Paul Ford
Directed by Mandy Patinkin
At the
Cadillac Palace Theatre 
24 W. Randolph, Chicago

Through March 7th (more info | tickets)

by Paige Listerud

There’s something secure in watching two consummate professionals dig into the American songbook and skillfully weave both major and minor works into a thematic Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 whole. Their vocal power and dexterity astonishes, their ability to delineate the subtext behind the lyrics awakens new possibilities within each song, and the sheer joy in performance that they exhibit with each other becomes nothing less than infectious. Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin take the audience on a musical journey and that audience will gladly then follow over hill and dale precisely because they know they are in good hands.

Broadway In Chicago’s An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin only runs from March 2 to March 7 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. The show reunites them after their first turn together in Evita thirty years ago. But the biggest surprise of the evening may be the casual, youthful ease and vigor both singers evince as the evening progresses. Upon opening night, Lupone omitted her classic calling card, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” from the program’s first act—leading to speculation over whether she felt a touch under the weather. If so, it was a meager compromise in an otherwise energetic and precisely crafted performance.

Mandy Patinkin conceived the dramatic arc and music selection of the production with his longtime accompanist and collaborator Paul Ford. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine this show without Ford’s quicksilver touch at the piano. The program itself is intriguing, to say the least. Major musical hits by Jerome Kern, Steven Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein have been spliced with lesser known work–such as “Somewhere It’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors, “Everybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle, and “Old Folks” from 70, Girls, 70. The songs are aligned to suggest the course of a relationship between two people–falling love, evading commitment, settling down and recalling the past together.

Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 Patti LuPone in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376
Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 patti-mandy-together

The arc of the first act flows more smoothly than the second, mostly because it’s hard to miss a love story with tunes from South Pacific. Patinkin’s light, dexterous interpretation of “Some Enchanted Evening” refreshes and revives the standard. Clearly, Patinkin, Lupone and Ford are pushing the songs a little beyond conventional rendition—never so far as to seem outlandish, just enough to incite renewed interest. Patter songs frame and energize the evening—Lupone whipping out “Getting Married Today” from Company and Patinkin joyfully hamming his heart out with “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues” from Follies.

The storyline may get a little lost in the second act, but by that time the audience just might not care. Lupone and Patinkin clearly love working together and they happily let everyone else in on their connection. Some numbers are effervescently goofy, like Ann Reinking’s charmingly choreographed dance on rolling office chairs. Above all, both performers are old hands at deeply humanizing their material but also give it the fresh glow of people who never take life for granted. It’s a perspective that makes this show the perfect start to March in Chicago, when the first suggestions of spring are borne on the wind.

 

Rating: ★★★½

 

Continue reading

Sunday Night Sondheim: Bring Me My Bride

Something Happened on the Way to the Forum

“Bring Me My Bride”

Roman Captain Miles Gloriosos portrayed as comically under-tall by actor Ed Huether. Directed by Bob Butterley.

SNS: Elaine Stritch sings The Little Things You Do Together

Sunday Night Sondheim: “The Little Things You Do Together

In the recording studio with Stephen Sondheim, recording the cast album for “Company”.  In the recording you’ll see a much younger Sondheim.  One question for Sondheim fans, who is the guy that gives instructions before the recording begins? Is this the book writer of Company?

Elaine Stritch sings "The Little Things You Do Together" from the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company in 1970.

 

A few YouTube comments of note:

1. i love how elaine just commands the room and listens to the other actors as well.

2. Elaine is just being Elaine. She always has to be the center of attention, even now she still doubts her own talents, I would guess. Only proves no one ever gets to be the person they always wanted to be, even when everyone says they’re the best.

       2a. bold statement, do you know Elaine personally i wonder?

       2b. Well said.

3. I don’t think I would be that upset if 70’s styles came back in fashion.

4. Is that Barbara Barrie in the sunglasses?? She’s great!

5. If you look closely you will see Beth Howland singing who played Vera on Alice

        

Sunday Night Sondheim: Sweeney Todd in Japan

Japanese professional theatre’s rehearsal of “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”, the finale of Sweeney Todd.

CAST: Masachika ICHIMURA (Sweeney Todd), Shinobu OTAKE (Mrs. Lovett), Midoriko KIMURA (Beggar Woman), Sonim (Johann), Yu SHIROTA (Anthony), Michitaka TACHIKAWA (Judge Turpin), Satoru SAITO (Beadle), Shinji TAKEDA (Tobias), Amon MIYAMOTO (Director)

favorite comments:

– I think I prefer this in English
– that’s cuz you speak English
– Reply: No, I just prefer the singers. I’m usually a big fan of Japanese songs

And here’s the Japanese trailer for the movie opening of “Sweeney Todd”, starring Johnny Depp.