Annapolis Opera Production In the woods is an emotionally thrilling evening of glorious music and song, combined with creative lighting, scenery and sound effects. Led by Dean Anthony, with Craig Kier conducting the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Stephen Sondheim’s musical about fairy tales and the unforeseen costs of wishes comes to life at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts Main Theater.
Patrick Kilbride plays the baker with emotional honesty, an ordinary man trying to do his best in the face of curses, magic beans and giants. Colleen Daly brings practicality to her wife, willing to trade beans for Jack’s (Matthew Hill) cow to help fill the magic potion, against Kilbride’s objections. Their duet “It Takes Two” is a beautiful reconciliation, bringing them together to fulfill their wish. ‘No More’ is Kilbride’s most powerful performance, with sadness and exhaustion leading to determination. Daly’s best performance is in “Moments in the Woods”, filled with surprise and joy before tragedy strikes.
Matthew Hill plays Jack with cheerful exuberance, allowing for great comedy. He sings a tearful farewell to his cow in “I Guess This Is Goodbye”. Climbing on a giant bean, he looks forward to a new adventure in “Giants in the Sky”. Diana Dimarzio plays Jack’s mother with immense practicality and need, thwarted by her swapping the cow for “magic beans.”
Emma Grimsley gives Cinderella deep loneliness, filling “Cinderella at the Grave” with nostalgia, as her mother “Jesse Mashburn” sings heartwarmingly. In “A Very Nice Prince” she ambivalently sings about her wish in sight, while in “On the Palace Steps” she wonders if this is what she really wants. Her spoken scene later with her prince (Paul La Rosa) is deeply moving.
Natasha Ramirez Farr as Cinderella’s stepmother and Patricia Hengen and Erin Ridge as her stepsisters are delightfully naughty, with good comedic timing as they try to fit into the glass slippers and their punishment for tormenting Cinderella.
Kylee Hope Geraci plays Little Red Riding Hood with an innocence at first, then turns to cheerful determination, pulling out a comedic switchblade at every opportunity. In “I Know Things Now”, she happily reveals her new experience.
Paul La Rosa has a deep, rich and seductive voice that hides trouble. As a wolf, he gives “Hello, Little Girl” an animal passion, howling at the end. As Cinderella’s prince, he imbues his lines with comedic drama. Brandon Lockhart does much the same as Rapunzel’s Prince. La Rosa and Lockhart’s duet, “Agony,” is hilarious in portraying their romantic issues.
Denique Isaac has a wonderful voice as Rapunzel. She sings operatically throughout the first act while weeping dramatically in the second act. Her spoken scene with the witch (Arianna Zukerman) is deeply moving, revealing a depth of feeling.
Arianna Zuckerman brings complexity to the Witch. “Stay with Me” is full of nostalgia and emotion for Rapunzel, between her dragging the beautiful-haired woman onto the stage. She dominates the scene in “Last Midnight” as she ponders the impossible moral choices that others don’t want to make.
Dean Anthony provides vigorous energy as narrator, introducing the story and providing helpful transitions during scene changes. As a man of mystery, he is gruff and enigmatic, offering startling revelations to Jack and the Baker. In “No More”, he reveals a depth and a love never seen before.
The set, by StageCraft Theatricals, is cleverly mobile, with three small sets for the houses of Cinderella, Jack and The Baker, each different enough to be instantly recognizable. Rolling platforms are used for Cinderella’s mother statue and Rapunzel’s tower. The Narrator is seated in a comfortable red chair just offstage, a small desk in front of him. The woods are tinged with green and hints of classic structures.
Costume designer Glenn Avery Breed created outfits that help distinguish the large number of characters. The Baker is in brown tones, while the Jack is in greens. Cinderella begins in rags before transforming into a beautiful white dress and later a yellow dress, while her stepmother and stepsisters wear elegant pink, blue, and green dresses. The witch starts out in tattered furs before transforming into a shimmering dark robe. Little Red Riding Hood is dressed all in red, from her famous cape to a skirt and socks, except for a gray fur shawl. The wolf wears a plaid jacket and boots over a furry suit. Wig and makeup designer Priscilla Bruce helps keep the characters colorful and distinguished, including Rapunzel’s locks.
Lighting designer Christopher Brusberg uses light to enhance dramatic effects. A red light bathes the scene when the Wolf speaks with Red Riding Hood. Cinderella’s mother is projected into the green light, making her appear unearthly. The witch’s magical feats are accompanied by twinkling lights. Director Dean Anthony uses Music Theater International’s beeps to announce the big bad in act two with deep rumbles and marching sounds, among other effects.
Craig Kier conducts the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra with great energy and attention. At times, the music overwhelms the vocals, making it difficult to understand Sondheim’s clever lyrics. Dean Anthony does a terrific job as a director. The singers navigate perfectly on stage and between themselves, with a lot of movement. They capture the emotional range of the songs and story, from comedy to heartbreak; “No One Is Alone” is particularly moving. The last performance is the morning of Sunday March 20; be sure to grab it if you want to know what happens “Ever After”!
Duration: Approximately 3 hours, including 20 minutes intermission.
In the woods plays until March 20, 2022 presented by Annapolis Opera performing at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts – 901 Chase Street in Annapolis, MD. For tickets ($28 to $100), call the box office at 410-280-5640 or purchase in line.
the In the woods playbill is online here.
Annapolis Opera’s COVID Safety Policy is here.