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GLTF shines with other half of fall repertory

Margaret Davis

Issue date: 10/17/08 Section: Focus
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How well do you know your fairy tales? After seeing Great Lakes Theater Festival's (GLTF) production of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, you might be questioning your expertise.

In Sondheim's world, with the mystical woods as a background, the audience is introduced to a few inhabitants of the woods: the baker and his wife, a boy named Jack with a milky white cow, and a young woman who is practically indentured to her stepmother and two stepsisters.

All begins with the baker's wife and her want for a child; in order to help get one, they make a deal with a witch. In exchange for a child, the witch asks for a cow as white as milk, hair the color of golden corn, a single gold slipper, and a cloak as red as blood. It is this barter that sets the wheels in motion for the baker and his wife to go onto a fanciful trip into the mysterious woods, and for Sondheim to combine as many fairy tale stories as possible in the woods.

The simplistic set (three large trees that are also rooms and homes for the characters) help keep the story cohesive as many more fairy tales are introduced. From Little Red Riding Hood's encounters with the wolf to Rapunzel and her corn-gold hair, the baker and his wife seamlessly jump between different tales.

While it is fairly easy to identify some favorite fairy tale characters, GLTF's production took some unique ideas to recreate some beloved characters. Jack, played by Tim Try, had a color Mohawk as well as a tattoo of his beloved cow on his bicep. Similarly, Little Ride Riding hood's style was much more that of a punk rocker with red and black hair and combat boots.

As all of the tales mesh together in the woods to different musical numbers, it is easy to be swept into the magic of the first act as all of the characters' lives intertwine to eventually result in some kind of "happily ever after."

And then there is Act Two. For anyone who was never fond of the term "happily ever after," Sondheim addresses your feelings with his second act (and consequently is not quite as child-friendly as the first act). Focusing once again on the lives of the beloved fairy tale characters, the second act looks at the repercussions of "happily ever after."

Under one great threat, the characters band together once again in the woods. However, this time the world is more than black and white. This point is driven home by the song "No One is Alone," as Cinderella, the baker, Jack and Little Red Riding Hood try and save their homes at the edge of the woods.

The company did a fantastic job on this production. With a strong cast, both musically and in acting ability, Into the Woods is a lot of fun. With a nice blend of humorous songs, like "Agony," sung by the two princes as they lament after women they cannot seem to win, and endearing songs like "No One Is Alone," there is a lot to learn from Sondheim's Into The Woods while still having fun.

Into the Woods will be playing at the Hanna Theater until Nov. 8. Tickets start at $13 and can either be purchased online at www.greatlakestheater.org or by calling 216.241.6000.
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