Playhouse 'Into The Woods' cast rises to Sondheim's musical challenge
OF THE MORNING CALL
October 14, 2009
talented cast of 23 does Stephen Sondheim proud in Pennsylvania
Playhouse's version of the twisted fairy tale musical ''Into The Woods.''
The modern parable, which showcases Sondheim's intricate melodies and
complex lyrics, didn't daunt the many voices of the playhouse's cast, as
words and music flew like aural darts throughout the 23/4-hour show.
Backed by a small but effective orchestra, the show moved briskly under
the direction of Rody Gilkeson.
The only quibble is that the actors could have been amplified more, since
you need to hear every word clearly to appreciate Sondheim's humorous
In the first act, the characters go through the familiar Grimm Fairy Tale
storylines ending with ''happily ever after.''
The darker second act explores the consequences of each character's
actions -- some of which are dire -- as the characters lie, cheat, fight
and even kill.
As the most human of the fairy tale characters, Richard Gunkle and Alicia
Pfaff as the baker and his wife are believable as a desperate childless
couple and endearing in their quest to break the spell that prevents them
from having a child.
Pfaff is appealing and feisty, even when she gives in to her impulses, and
shines on her musical numbers. Gunkle is heartbreaking on the wistful song
''No More,'' which he sings to his infant son.
Cinderella, played by Gwen Vigorito, displays her character's uncertainty.
Her duet with Pfaff on ''A Very Nice Prince'' is one of the show's
The sets complement the storybook quality of the show by turning the stage
into a lush forest with hidden glades and groves aided by evocative
As the two not-so-perfect princes charming, Hunter Chadeayne and Gregory
Paradis are scene stealers in their hilarious duet ''Agony.'' They sing
how the quest for love can be more fulfilling than what waits at the end.
Andrea Cobb is effective as Red Riding Hood, who is not your typical sweet
little girl. Traumatized by her experiences, she becomes an almost feral
child who is quick to brandish her knife.
Justin Doncsecz is charming as the naive Jack and Carole Silvoy brings her
powerhouse voice to the role of Jack's mother.
A standout in a small role is Paul Bonnici as Milky White the cow, who
elicits many laughs with only the simple line ''moo.''
The wolf is wonderfully wicked and oily as played by Michael Pesavento,
who shines on ''Hello Little Girl.''
As the witch, Elizabeth Marsh-Gilkeson is the voice of reason, although
not always reasonable.
Katie Meo's Rapunzel, not surprisingly, is a little unhinged after all
those years in the tower.
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