Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Into the Woods" comes out on top.

I had the joy and great pleasure of attending the Duluth Playhouse's rendition of the classic musical Into to Woods this evening. Molded around the stories of many of our favorite Grimm Brother stories, including "Jack and the Bean Stalk," "Cinderalla," "Rapunzel," and "Little Red Riding Hood," this musical, with music and lyrics by of course Stephen Soundheim and book by James Lapine, was yet another one of Duluth's dazzling display of talent, both onstage and off. What a joy it was to follow a baker and his wife set out to free a curse set upon them by their witch of a neighbor, literally! You'll have to see how it all turns out for yourself, though:
The first thing an audience notices in any production, if a curtain isn't used, is the set. Luckily, the curtain wasn't used, meaning more time to soak in and admire the beautiful carpentry. Curtis Phillips really outdid himself. Built on a proscenium stage, a forefront of three house, owned by some of the fairytale alums, were on display. Then, the magic began. After the opening number, three trails pass from the clearing that is the mainstage up the stage and, in every sense, into the woods. Trees tower freely and even move on cue. Leaves create a wooded floor. It seems that dirt even arises on each step.
The lighting adds volumes to this already magnificent set. Through filters used to resemble sunlight through leaves, the whole thing comes together in a breathtaking ambience. I may be partial to this aspect because of my lighting origins in theatre, but they were truly incredible! I have Jeff Brown to thank for this. So thank you.
The costumes were to die for. Drawn from illustrations originally used from story books themselves, Jean Olson did wonderfully. An example of her work confines in the stitches of Cinderalla's wadrobe stitches. First, in the rags that reveal her all too humble beginnings to her ball gown bestowed by her mother to her wedding dress, Cinderella truly looked like the princess so many young ones love to dream about often.
The actors, the obvious stars of the show, came out from the woods brightest, though. My favorites were the Baker, Little Red, Cinderalla, and the Witch played by William Lucas, Kate Horvath, Jana LaPine, and Andrea Schmidt respectively. With the looks of Andrew Rannells, Lucas pushed full force, not that he had to try hard; his voice is so crisp and detail-oriented. Kate Horvath made me laugh a little too loudly. Seriously, I thought the guy next to me was gonna snap! She is hilarious as Little Red; she is PERFECT in all aspects of the character. I am proud to say that I know Jana LaPine personally. (In fact, she and I are related! Pass the talent, cuz!) So poised and a natural, her presence lifted the whole ensemble. And of course, Andrea Schmidt is to be mentioned. I was first introduced to her character through Bernadette Peters, who leaves HUGE shoes to fill, but she is truly incredible. Because I'm lazy, I don't want to go back and revise the last paragraph, but I also have to mention Kyle Geissler, who was Jack. His body movements as Jack were perfect for the giant-fighting boy; his acting abilities also brought greatness to the Duluth Playhouse. And the wig! I love it!
Of course, these various pieces are nothing without the director, Priscilla McRoberts. Fantastic job, everyone involved. You made for a wonderful night.
Now, everybody else:  GO BUY TICKETS. The show runs until July 31st, 2011, so get on that!!!

'Til next time.


  1. Russ, I just found your blog and must say, you are a fantastic writer! I've really enjoyed stumbling upon this. Did the James Lapine that wrote the book the same James Lapine that I know? Just curious - Deb

  2. Hey Deb! Thanks, and no, they are completely different people! And what a coincidence that Jana's in the play, considering that fact! -Russ


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