(Cover Photo: Joey Fortune as "Little Red Ridinghood," Elena Mercier as "Cinderella," Alex Zimmer as "Jack" and Adam Leidemer as "The Baker" in "INTO THE WOODS" by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim now playing at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through May 7, 2023. Photo Credit Nicholas Magrey)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
“The difference between a cow and a bean is a bean can begin an adventure.”
- James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Nicholas Magrey
Music Direction by Diane Pollard
Choreography by Christine Guerin
Cast Includes: Neal Martel - Narrator/Mysterious Man; Elena Mercier - Cinderella; Alex Zimmer - Jack; Krissi Forgues - Jack's Mother; Adam Leidemer - Baker; Libbey Stearns - Baker’s Wife; Heather Crabbe - Cinderella's Stepmother; Shannon Casey - Florinda; Chelsea Daniels - Lucinda; Martin Reiss - Cinderella's Father; Joey Fortune - Little Red Ridinghood; Natasha Darius - Witch; Mary Jo Reiss - Cinderella's Mother/Giant; Nathan Conrow - Cinderella's Prince/Wolf; Marina R. Matuzek - Granny; Elle-Jordyn Goslin - Rapunzel; Tristan Arnold - Rapunzel's Prince ; Jim Archambault - Steward; Melina Martello-Munoz - Snow White; Anna Kate Werge - Milky White/Sleeping Beauty.
Additional Creative Team:
Kathleen Lundy - Stage Manager; Roy Simmons – Assistant Stage Manager; Christine Healy – Artistic Committee Liaison; Jeanne Foley – Production Manager; Kathleen Atwood – Production Coordinator; Sheila Harrington-Hughes – Costume Designer; Teal Griswold, Layn Mayen, Maegan Kelley, Paisley Gothreau – Costume Assistants; Rebecca Theriaque – Hair & Wig Design/Witch Makeup Design; Nicholas Magrey – Set Designer; Donald P. Magrey, Paul Magrey, Wesley Goodman, Jason Preston – Set Design Assistants; Anna Kate Werge – Rapunzel’s Tower Design; Jason Preston – Set Artist; Franny Melzer – Set Artist’s Assistant; Rebecca Theriaque, James Theriaque, Nicholas Magrey – Set Painters; Wesley Goodman, Neal Martel, Donald P. Magrey, Paul Magrey, Roy Simmons, Dan Rasmusseon, Carl Mercier, Nicholas Magrey – Set Construction; Bonnie Theriault & Melinda Collelo – Props.
April 21 through May 7, 2023
(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)
The Complex Performing and Creative Arts Centre
Bradley Playhouse, 30 Front Street (Route 44) in Putnam, CT.
All seats reserved. Reservations may be made with a major credit card online at www.thebradleyplayhouse.org or by calling 860-928-7887.
The Theatre Of Northeastern Connecticut (TNECT) at the Bradley Playhouse brings to life the musical convergence of Brothers Grimm fictional characters with “INTO THE WOODS” now playing in Putnam.
The book, written by James Lapine, helps guide the audience through one of the most notable scores by the late Stephen Sondheim. The duo also collaborated on the libretto for their much beloved, "Sunday in the Park with George."
Lapine is a renowned librettist and has won the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical three times: for “Falsettos,” “Passion” (another Sondheim collaboration) and, of course, for “INTO THE WOODS.”
Other musicals for which Lapine has been librettist include “A New Brain” (Off-Broadway), “ Little Miss Sunshine” and his most recent musical, “Flying Over Sunset.”
Winning a Tony Award for Best Score in 1988, “INTO THE WOODS” is best known for its captivating underlying theme of: While we may not get the happy endings we feel exist "as written" for each of us, we WILL get an ending and, God willing, it will be the one we deserve.
Directed by Nicholas Magrey with choreography by Christine Guerin, the staging of the TNETC show succeeds on multiple levels and the ensemble faithfully executes one of Sondheim’s most popular works among the average theater going public.
As the musical unfolds, we are guided by a Narrator (Neal Martel) who introduces us to all the fabled characters with whom we are about to become re-acquainted, yet not in the way we might recall them from our youth.
Martel gives a solid rendering, moving between his part as the "Narrator" to the "Mysterious Man" (requiring an elaborate costume change) with great aplomb.
In concurrence with Sondheim's lyrics, the plot written by James Lapine (based on various Grimm’s fairy tales) for "INTO THE WOODS" is intricate with many plotlines played in parallel at first then intersecting in one spot.
So many plots unfold that, just as you think the musical is coming to a close with a happy ending, it doesn't, then it looks like it might, then it doesn't, then it happens again.
Rinse and repeat as needed.
For many, though, this is not a failing of the piece but, rather, its genius.
If Lapine and Sondheim had ended the story mere moments before the conclusion of the first act, many would be happy (ever after).
As it happens, (spoiler alert) the beginning of the second act virtually eviscerates everything that has happened thus far in the story.
The second act is where a majority of the more "hard-core Sondheim fans" actually find the most joy in "INTO THE WOODS" - as it deals with the very subjective concept of "happily ever after" and completely dismantles it, moment by musical moment.
Those fans would argue that is the very intent of the piece - and they would be absolutely correct.
As all the fabled stories converge and intertwine, as all the sub-plots become entangled (much like Rapunzel's hair), the characters seek their fairy tale endings...but at what cost?
Yes - What happens after “Happily Ever After?"
(Photo: Libbey Stearns as "The Baker's Wife" in a scene from "INTO THE WOODS" by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim now playing at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through May 7, 2023. Photo Credit Nicholas Magrey)
The main fable of the many fables told in "INTO THE WOODS" concerns a Baker (Adam Leidemer) and his wife (Libbey Stearns) wishing to have a child but learn they are incapable of conceiving one due to a curse cast upon them by the evil Witch (Natasha Darius).
Natasha Darius is simply wonderful in the role of the Witch, captivating upon every entrance.
Both Leidemer and Stearns impress in their respective roles, which helps bond the audience to the rest of the cast as they emerge.
The Baker and his wife journey through (okay, “into”) the woods in order to find a way of breaking the Witch’s curse.
There, they meet Jack (Alex Zimmer), who wishes his cow, "Milky White" (puppeteered by Anna Kate Werge) would give milk.
Zimmer has an excellent voice and certainly conveys the role of Jack well - but one seriously - SERIOUSLY - has to suspend disbelief to accept the supposed age and height of this "little boy."
The Baker also meets Little Red Ridinghood (Joey Fortune) who is rescued by the Baker from the evil, manipulative Wolf (Nathan Conrow, who also plays Cinderella's Prince).
Joey Fortune is the show's biggest vocal surprise, impressing every time she sings. Pitch perfect every single time.
The Witch holds young Rapunzel (Elle-Jordyn Goslin) captive in a tall castle room.
While she actually loves Rapunzel as a daughter, the Witch keeps the kidnapped girl locked away until another handsome Prince (Tristan Arnold) falls in love with Rapunzel and attempts to rescue her.
Next up is Cinderella (Elena Mercier), who wishes to attend a festival being held by the King in honor of his handsome, womanizing son, the Prince (Nathan Conrow, who, again, also plays the Wolf - coincidence?).
Equal to Fortune, Mercier also has a simply astounding voice as she displays in the number, "On the Steps of the Palace."
Later, as these two amazing voices blend in a shared melancholy moment from the story, their complimenting vocals heightening the scene quite nicely.
(Photo: Joey Fortune as "Little Red Ridinghood," in a rehearsal shot from "INTO THE WOODS" by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim now playing at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through May 7, 2023. Photo Credit Nicholas Magrey)
Unfortunately, one area in which the show seems to come up short is in the area of costumes.
Now, this might have been an attempt to take a cue from the more recent "ENCORES" and their "stripped down approach" which reduces the level of costuming required.
Yet, something obviously became lost in the TNETC attempt as some of the costumes prove lackluster.
Examples include: ill-fitting "prom tuxedoes" worn by the Princes, the Baker looking as if he just walked into the theatre from a warehouse job, a pregnant woman looking as if she is ready to give birth to an end table, or Red Ridinghood's "Raggedy Ann" ensemble (although the cape is perfect).
Most impacted - a bizarre looking (and completely unnecessary), grotesque "ALF" mask/wig being worn by the Witch, impacting Darius' otherwise bravura performance. That idea should have been abandoned before it was even proposed.
Overall, if one had to guess, the initial idea might have been, possibly, to attempt the more "stripped down" version but something was misunderstood either in the interpretation or in the execution. One only need look at the assorted footwear worn by the cast to see the level of disparity.
Thankfully, this distraction aside, the balance of the performances easily overcome this disparity.
(Photo: Joey Fortune as "Little Red Ridinghood," Elena Mercier as "Cinderella," Alex Zimmer as "Jack" and Adam Leidemer as "The Baker" in "INTO THE WOODS" by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim now playing at the Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT. through May 7, 2023. Photo Credit Nicholas Magrey)
Both the puppet making and puppetry of the cow "Milky White" should be highly commended as it worked quite nicely for the required and pivotal bovine character.
The orchestra, under the capable musical direction of Diane Pollard, is obscured but on stage and flawlessly executes the score.
The set design is a cleverly scaffolded blend of tree limbs and netting. The use of multiple levels allows for most (although not all) of the characters entrances and exits to flow well.
There is also a nice symbolic usage of multiple antique typewriters as planters set along the front of the stage.
The three main panels used at the beginning of each act are extremely well designed and the entire production is elevated by a superb combined blending of both light and sound.
There are some prolonged exits if anyone is stuck on the upper level of the set and those scenes do require an additional black-out to assist.
However, given all the "wood" used in the "INTO THE WOODS" set, the set strike after the show closes should be quite interesting...or should at least help make for one hell of a Memorial Day bonfire somewhere.
"INTO THE WOODS" continues at the Bradley Playhouse until May 7th and is very much recommended.
Coming to the Bradley Playhouse in June: "NUTS"
Approximately 2 hours, 45 minutes with one intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
ABOUT THE SHOW
“Be careful what you wish for” seems to be the ongoing theme in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Brothers Grimm inspired musical, "INTO THE WOODS."
The story follows The Baker and his wife who wish to have a child, Cinderella who wishes to go the King’s Festival, and Jack who wishes his cow would give some milk.
When the Baker and his wife are visited by the neighborhood witch, who reveals to them that she placed a curse on their family, the two set off on a journey into the woods to reverse the curse.
Also in the woods, we meet Little Red, who is trying to visit her grandmother, the Wolf who loves tasty little girls, the Witch’s daughter Rapunzel, and the Princes chasing after their loves.
By the end of Act I, everyone has gotten their wish and will seemingly live happily ever after.
But in Act II, when Jack’s beanstalk brings them a visit from an angry Giant, we see how the consequences of their actions haunt them in disastrous ways.
The community must come together to save each other and their kingdom, but sacrifices must be made.
COVID 19 PROTOCOLS
Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.
The Bradley Playhouse is a 117 year-old vaudeville theatre in the heart of the Putnam antiques and restaurant district in the “Quiet Corner” of Northeastern Connecticut. Since 1991, the Bradley Playhouse has been managed by the volunteers of The Theatre of Northeastern Connecticut, Inc. (TNECT).
TNECT produces eight main season shows per year and a number of special fundraising events for The Bradley Playhouse Restoration Fund. TNECT’s mission is to produce and sponsor quality theatre and entertainment for the residents of Northeastern Connecticut and the surrounding areas, to encourage the development of creativity through the support of local artists, and to support education and hands-on experience in the creation, direction, and production of theatre and the performing arts.
The Bradley Playhouse
30 Front Street
P.O. Box 71
Putnam, CT 06260-1942