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Review: IPFW Theatre Dept. Gives Stunning Rendition of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods”

Into the Woods (4)

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Into the Woods (4)
Written by: Communicator StaffApril 23, 2014

On Friday, April 18, IPFW’s Theatre Department gave their opening night performance of Steven Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” This musical re-imagines classic fairy tales and links them together in a whimsical story that is both light-hearted and coldly honest about the elusive “Happily Ever After.”

The story is about a baker and his wife who must collect four objects for a witch in order to break a curse that prevents them from having children. Their quest both helps and interferes with the adventures of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack the Giant-Killer, and other well-known characters.

The stage was a clever four-tiered arrangement with realistic trees in the background and several ways for the characters to enter and exit. In addition to looking like a well-constructed forest clearing, the set allowed numerous crosswalks and chase scenes to occur smoothly and believably.

The cast was brilliant, combining talented singing, well-rehearsed acting and plenty of character into each of the roles. The audience could see a genuine character development in almost every part as the story progressed. It was clear that the performers had worked out the timing and delivery almost perfectly.

The Witch, played by Halee Bandt, was especially skiled in both wickedness and tenderness. She masterfully handled the challenging range of notes sang by her character. Likewise Jack, played by Brock Graham, was one of the most involved and convincing actors in the performance.

The wide and interesting array of props employed by the cast only enhanced the musical. From Jack’s sickly old cow rolling on and off stage to Granny’s bed propping up the wolf like the slab of a mad scientist, every item played perfectly with the characters and the set.

While there was very little actual dancing in the performance, the blocking and the choreography were nearly flawless even with the entire cast wandering across the stage at the same time.

As with any performance, there were a few minor issues. Occasionally a microphone would crackle or the timing on the lights was slightly off. However, all of these issues were minor at worst and could not taint the otherwise spot on performance. For an opening night, it was spectacular.

“I’m thrilled with opening night,” commented Darby Alice Bixler, the voice for Cinderella. “I thought it went great, I’m very satisfied.”

Despite being nearly three hours long, the play went very quickly. Even in its darkest or slowest moments, the audience was riveted waiting for what would happen next. The last show will be April 27, so be sure to go see this musical while it’s still at IPFW.

Review by: Sean Godfroy