The opening number of “Into the Woods” sets the tone for the entire production, with perhaps one of the most complicated all-hands-on-deck singing extravaganzas. The sheer breath control of the entire cast to put on such a feat of the larynx was on par with Olympian swimmer stamina.
Director Patrick Campbell, who made his solo directorial debut of the Main Stage productions, wanted a lush experience for the audience that evoked some memories of the original 1980s television version, but also some fresh takes on such treasured archetypes.
His tremendous success in cultivating the triple-threat talents of his cast members resulted in an audience enraptured in the distinct magic that is a Stephen Sondheim creation.
Music director Matthew W. Surico, who has been at the head of countless orchestras at CMPAC, flawlessly led his musicians through some difficult pieces and kept the energy fresh and fast-paced.
Scenic designer Joe Kenny gave an ethereal, but still earthy stage that transformed to different parts of the forest seamlessly. This lent itself well to lighting designer Christopher Creevy’s marked spotlights and dream-sequenced hues throughout the production.
Given the emphasis on the lyrical content of “Into the Woods,” especially to drive plot and deliver punchlines, sound designer Evan Lettieri had a Herculean task to provide crispness and clarity throughout the heavy dialogue, but delivered with audiences, catching every non sequitur and capturing the wide vocal range of each performer.
Of course, what is more important to a princess than looking the part? Costume designer Ronald R. Green III had Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty to deck out and did so wonderfully, with distinguished color palettes, each true to the personae of the character.
Evil stepsisters, played frenetically and comically by Rebecca Martowski (Florinda) and Lainee Jentz (Lucinda), were outfitted in mid-19th-century looks, with their dressing gowns resembling brothel-wear in their first appearance.
Donning a clever choice of contemporary sunglasses (after they’re blinded by Cinderella’s avenging birds), the stepsisters were evocative of an Aldous Huxley or Hunter S. Thompson headshot.
Isaiah Baston as the lovably dim Jack was the standout performance, with a strong command of comedic acting and an angelic voice to match his bright-eyed performance.
Keith Jones’s puppetry of Jack’s beloved cow, Milky White, was also a comedic high point, with clever expressions and minute motions pulling in big laughs from the audience.
Andrew Murano and Emily Walter, as the baker and his wife, had lovely chemistry that played well into both the raucous first act and the emotionally gnawing second act.
Anna Francesca Schiavoni, as the knife-wielding Little Red Riding Hood, had the face, voice, and acting chops of a young Judy Garland with the brattiness of a reality star that gave her character such a boisterous and hilarious presence throughout the musical.
Samantha Free as the Witch, the central force of “Into the Woods,” had a gobsmackingly strong voice that garnered thunderous applause at every number.
In the roles of the clueless Abercrombie hunks of the royal family were David DiMarzo and Michael Krulder, whose bro-tastic rivalry was set forth in their equally strong vibratos during their duets.
Elizabeth DeGennaro (who also played Cinderella’s Mother/Granny) had Anna Wintour-esque authority in her voice role as the Giant.
With appeal to audience members of all ages, “Into the Woods” is canon for musical theater, and CMPAC’s production is, too, for the South Shore theater aficionado.