Theater

Review: Metropolis brings magic to the stage with 'Into the Woods'

“Into the Woods” is a dark musical comedy with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. It’s a musical that never gets old. The Metropolis Performing Arts Centre puts on stellar production, running through Nov. 4.

The plot of “Into the Woods” involves taking well-known Brothers Grimm’s fairytale characters from such stories as “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Cinderella” and combines them together into a single environment – the woods.

Ron Turner strikes a regal disposition as the tale’s narrator. Turner, an accomplished actor with credits at Steppenwolf Theatre, Drury Lane and Chicago Shakespeare Theater, provides the perfect balance of dry humor and decorum. We soon are introduced to the principle couple of the Baker and his wife, played with extraordinary skill by Ryan Stajmiger and Kate Staiger. The couple yearns to have a child, but their neighbor, The Witch (Kelsey Burd), reveals a curse that has been placed on the couple, making them barren.

However, there is hope in sight. The Witch promises she will reverse the curse if the Baker and his wife deliver the white cow from Jack and the Beanstalk, the red cape of Little Red Riding Hood, a lock of hair from Rapunzel and a golden slipper from Cinderella.

Stajmiger sings effortlessly, a delight to listen to. Staiger, as the Baker’s Wife, brings an element of Idina Menzel to her character, and equally is impressive in song and acting. Putting the wicked in Wicked Witch, Burd tackles tongue-twister lyrics that might cause a less talented person to stumble on their words. Burd is sheer perfection.

As Jack and Little Red Riding Hood, Ethan Warren and Anna Segatti, respectively, do an excellent job of conveying the youth and innocence of their characters. They both are excellent singers.

There are two princesses in the story: Cinderella and Rapunzel. Nicole Armold provides a very-skilled, enjoyable interpretation of the Cinderella role, while Kim Green holds her own as Rapunzel.

The crowd-favorite characters, however, are Alexander Johnson, as Cinderella’s Prince, and Benjamin Klein, as Rapunzel’s Prince. They bring down the house with their duet “Agony.” Johnson does an equally impressive job as the Big Bad Wolf, oozing sexuality in his interactions with Little Red Riding Hood.

Director Robin M. Hughes does a remarkable job using all the space available to set the tale. Thanks to Hughes’ staging, and choreography by Jennifer Cupani, the play moves at a brisk, yet enjoyable pace. Music direction by Ken McMullen is right on target – bringing out the best in all the performers. Scenic designer Adam Liston also deserves kudos. The entire cast does a great job. Other cast members include: Ana Maria Alvarez (Jack’s Mother), Michelle Hackman (Cinderella’s Mother), Kent Joseph (Cinderella’s Father), Allyssa O’Donnell (Lucinda), Shane Roberie (Steward), Kara Schoenhofer (Cinderella’s Stepmother) and Marissa Williams (Florinda).

If you are looking for an enjoyable outing at the theater, look no further than Metropolis’ “Into the Woods.”

• Rikki Lee Travolta has starred in, directed and choreographed productions throughout the country, including many in McHenry County. He has written two novels and a memoir. He now hosts a weekly musical theater radio program called “It’s Showtime with Rikki Lee” on 101.5 FM, or streaming and through podcasts on www.huntleyradio.com. His website is www.rikkileetravolta.com.

“INTO THE WOODS”

WHEN: Through Nov. 4

WHERE: Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights

COST & INFO: One of Stephen Sondheim’s most beloved musicals. Rated PG-13. Tickets $40. Tickets and information: 847- 577-2121 or www.metropolisarts.com.

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