Sondheim's rhymes are at their wittiest, his music at its tunefulest. And he and book writer James Lapine make both clever and profound use of traditional fairy tales about Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood and the Woolf, Rapunzel, and a tale of their own invention about a baker and his wife and the witch next door – plus a glance at Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. That's a lot to get into one musical, and they get most of it into the first act. Then in the second act they bring in an angry giant, who can be seen as a nuclear threat, a terrorist threat, a global warming threat, or whatever potential catastrophe haunts your nightmares. And each time I see Into the Woods, I'm less bothered by the difference in tone between the first act and the second act. Now I see the second act as inevitable.
It's a big show, and it was brave of Family Musical Theater, a community group, to tackle it. They tackled it smartly. Kevin J. Jones was the go-to-guy to make it work, and he did. He directed both stage and music, with a large orchestra that sounded good, and he designed the set, using the now-traditional and simple concept of story books that open into the scenes and, in his design, that also reverse to be the woods. And Jones and Mickey Shearin-Anderson designed the richly colorful costumes. Jones didn't do the choreography. Jim Kimker did that, in a way that the cast can handle and the audience enjoy. And John Jauss designed the lights, with a little excess contrast at a couple of points, but you could always see.
Vic Porcelli was the natural choice for the narrator, with his usual directness and charm. And Kay Love nails the Witch and her two great numbers, “The Last Midnight” and “Children Will Listen.” Broad John Jauss as the Baker contrasts with Abbie Shull as his reserved wife. Kristin McGuire bounces perkily as Little Red Riding Hood, with Michael Jones
a seductive Woolf. Melissa Flinn's Cinderella never gives up, despite the cruelty of Mary McCreight, Caitlin Hill, and Lisa Rosenstock as her step mother and sisters. Aaron Williams is as tall and dumb as a beanpole as Jack, towering over Dianne Mueller as his mother. Margaret Borgmeyer sings gorgeously as Rapunzel. Michael Baird and Jeffrey Salger are the two preening princes.
All in all, Family Musical Theater has come up with a very enjoyable "Into the Woods".