The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Into the Woods
Organization Sierra College Theatre Arts
Date(s) of show April 17-26, 2015
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb
Review I’ve seen many dramas and musicals at Sierra College over many years, but I don’t think I’ve seen a show that was as well crafted as Into the Woods. I’ve seen this show several times in recent years, and I saw the movie version just a few months ago. And to tell the truth, it’s a long way from being my favorite musical. But the Sierra College Theatre Arts Department, under the brilliant direction of Scott Adams, just brought this complex show to life with a stage (and orchestra pit and crew) loaded with talent.

I attended the final performance of what was only a two-week run, and Dietrich Theatre (capacity of about 450) was almost full. At first, I was a little surprised at the good attendance, with the movie version having come out so recently (and being so good). But maybe this is what happens when word gets out about a truly exceptional production.

Here’s a problem. There was such a large cast for this show (25 actors) that it is impossible for me to comment on all the excellent performances I witnessed. My first note was “Amy [Wolfley] sang beautifully” (as Cinderella). But then I heard the others, and I have to say that practically every one of them sang well — way above the standards of an amateur production. The same is true of the acting: all of it seemed so fresh and inspired. That said, I have to mention Amanda Duisenberg’s amazing performance as The Baker’s Wife. She displayed an excellent singing voice, and her acting was so alive and subtle that I found it practically mesmerizing. The same is true of Signey Raey-Gonzales as The Witch. When she first appeared in a scene with the baker and his wife, she launched into a rap that was frenetic, even frenzied, and delivered with such spirit and finesse that it earned spontaneous applause. This was just the first of many demonstrations of her versatile delivery and vocal technique — and an outstanding singing voice.

I was a little surprised at how well everyone's rapidly delivered lyrics and dialog came through. This is necessary for Sondheim’s sophisticated and witty lyrics and James Lapine's dialog, and the result is a tribute to the efforts of actors and director — and maybe the theater itself.

So many aspects of this production were impressive. For a start, the 11-piece orchestra played beautifully and worked in perfect sync with the cast. The costumes were excellent, especially that of the Witch, right down to the long fingernails that she brandished. The elements of the set were extremely well done. There was an extraordinarily realistic projection on the scrim at the back of the stage, and there were numerous trailers with trees painted on fabric all of which gave depth — even scariness — to the “woods.” Even the props were interesting and fun. For example, the cow was a hoot. Obviously, they couldn’t have a prop that was too unwieldy, but it was hilarious when different actors picked up the cow by the handle on its back to move it around.

Into the Woods is, after all, a comedy, and there were many good laughs, such as Little Red Riding Hood taking one biscuit after another and the Baker taking them back one after another or the effect the witch’s staff had at a distance when she waved it at people or the baker’s wife and Cinderella’s prince rolling along the ground four or five times to humorously evoke the idea of a sexual encounter. And I have to add the time when the witch’s song went on longer than she wanted, and she went downstage to get the attention of orchestra conductor Ray Ashton to make him stop. To me, these touches are genius in direction, whether the ideas came from the director Scott Adams or individual cast members. I could have seen Into the Woods several times before, and I would still be delighted by the unique features of this production, which was so full of clever staging tricks and precise comic timing.

The execution of this show — to me, a masterpiece of singing, acting, stagecraft and direction — was so good that I was sad to see the last performance, sad because I would have loved to have seen it again to pick up any details I might have missed and appreciate once more all those excellences that made this show so thoroughly entertaining.

(I’m doing something I don’t often do — attaching a copy of the program so that you can see all the members of the cast and crew and read their impressive credits.  Click here to open it in a new window.)

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