Into the Woods review from the Cleburne Times-Review

Once upon a time, there was quite a crew in the woods …

By Mark A. Nobles/Special to the Times-Review

“Into The Woods” takes the Brothers Grim fairy tales past the point of “happily ever after” with a whimsical and sometimes dark take on the old adage, “be careful what you wish for.” With music and lyrics by the great contemporary composer Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, “Into the Woods” takes Cinderella, Jack and his beanstalk, the Baker and his wife, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel and mashes them together in a brilliant witches’ brew of a morality tale.

As usual the Plaza has assembled an extremely talented cast. Daron Cockerell is light and sweet as Cinderella. JaceSon Barrus has a wonderful turn as her prince with a slightly wandering eye. Jill Baker plays Rapunzel with a touch of mad Ophelia from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” She manages to be both funny and haunting at various turns. Kyle Adams manages to steal more than a few laughs during his brief time on stage as Rapunzel’s Prince. Ben Phillips and Milette Siler play the Baker and the Baker’s Wife and strike the perfect note of an old married couple fighting life’s troubles with love and togetherness. Seth Cunningham plays Jack as a well meaning but slightly dense youth. Cunningham is an endearing talent who is sometimes overlooked because he tends to make everything look easy and natural.

The spotlight performances shine brightest on Tamara Steinburg as the Witch and Tabitha Barrus as Little Red Ridinghood. Steinburg is a force to be reckoned with as the mad, hook-nosed witch. She slouches and scurries about making mayhem for the rest of the village with delightful glee. Barrus infuses Little Red with a teenage snootiness that is hilarious as long as … she’s not your teenager (that might be infuriating).

Steinburg’s performance is powerful, making it difficult to look elsewhere when she is on stage, while Barrus darts and pops her lines with perfect timing and nuance. Both deserve kudos for managing to stand out in such a strong and talented cast.

“Into The Woods” is a fast-paced, intricate story with much of the dialogue and story line conveyed through the lyrics of the songs. The opening night performance was continuously marred with a bad sound mix between the live vocals and recorded music. A visually appealing number between Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf was completely lost with a bad sound mix and a costume that rubbed the live microphone. Hopefully these sound issues will be fixed so that audiences for the remainder of the show’s run can better enjoy the dialogue and follow the plot.

“Into the Woods” features a talented cast, stunning vocal performances and a punchy, poignant plot. This is a once-upon-a-time story that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages.

Performances of “Into the Woods” run through Sept. 4. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, with two performances Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. For information, call 817-202-0600 or visit http://www.plaza-theatre.com.

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