Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Foothill stages terrific 'Into the Woods'


Kama Belloni (left) as Jack's mother,  Ryan Liu as Jack and Mateo Urquidez handling Milky White. (David Allen photo)

Combine Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack of beanstalk fame and Rapunzel with some other characters and you get the 1987 Tony-winning musical “Into the Woods” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine, being given a terrific production by Foothill Music Theatre.

Opening with the classic lines, “Once upon a time,” the show has each major character saying, “I wish.” While those wishes come true in the first act, which is mostly bright with some chuckles along the way, the second act turns darker. There’s very little happily ever after.

Foothill director Milissa Carey skillfully guides the 20-member cast, a mix of students and community members. Each performer creates a believable character and blends into the ensemble. Because every performer does so well, it’s difficult to single anyone out.

The story is introduced by the affable narrator (Michael Paul Hirsch, who also plays the mysterious man).

Soon we meet Cinderella (Sam Mills), who wishes to go to the festival. Then there’s Little Red Riding Hood (Mai Abe), who buys bread from the Baker (James Schott) and the Baker’s Wife (Alicia Teeter) before going into the woods to visit her grandmother.

The not-too-bright Jack (Ryan Liu) has a pet cow, Milky White (manipulated by Mateo Urquidez), but she gives no milk. Therefore, his mother (Kama Belloni) wants to sell her.

The baker and his wife want a child, but they learn from the witch (Caitlin Gjerdrum) that she has put a spell on his house, rendering him childless because his father made a mess of her garden.

In order to break the spell, they must go into the woods to find four items in three days. In their quest, they encounter the other fairy tale characters.

This show features Sondheim’s memorable music as well as his fast-paced, witty lyrics. For example, Jack’s mother sings that Milky White’s “withers wither with her,” and the witch names all the vegetables, such as rutabaga and arugula, that the baker’s father ruined.

In addition to Carey’s direction and the talented cast, this production benefits from Yusuke Soi’s set design, which easily flows from one setting to the next despite the small stage.

Also noteworthy are the costumes by Sharon Peng, choreography by Kayvon Kordestani, sound by Andy Heller and lighting by Pamila Gray. Music director Michael Horsley leads the nine-member orchestra, seated upstage, from the keyboard.

Despite its fairy tale themes and because of the events of the second act, this show isn’t suitable for youngsters.

Running about two hours and 40 minutes with an intermission, “Into the Woods” will continue through March 19 in the Lohman Theatre at Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. For tickets and information, call (650) 949-7360 or visit www.foothill.edu/theatre.







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