“Into the Woods,” the splendid musical with songs by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, can be minimal and magical, or large and luminous. A favorite of stage actors, it’s an ambitious challenge for any cast, amateur or professional.
Farrington High School’s revival — directed and choreographed by Aubrey Lee Staley, with the school’s academy director, Miguel Cadoy III as musical director — is somewhere in-between.
For the Kalihi cast, this is a challenging effort, part of the campus journey to bolster acceptance on the theatrical map, with a core of stellar actors who are not yet accomplished dancers. The production does not have an adequate budget but nonetheless keeps tickets at an astonishing low of $10 for adults and there’s no hand-out playbill but you can download the critical credits online.
Yet “Into the Woods,” with its fairybook characters threatened by the giant, still gets “it” when everyone goes frolicking into the woods in search of missions and goals of mundane life. Go see and discover what eagerness looks and sounds like.
The Baker (Isaac Liu) and the Baker’s Life (Janal Baran) want a baby. Little Red Ridinghood (Julian Sanchez) wants to visit Granny (Maryann Nabua), Cinderella (Summer Pilor) wishes to go to the ball. Jack (Axle Munoz) is chastised by his Mother (Lucienne Jamera) for selling Milky White (a cow puppet, designed by Audrey Castandea-Walker, and manipulated by Marky Raphael).
The stepsisters Florinda (Rovie Piso) and Lucinda (Leihua Kuhaulua) want to become the belle of Cinderella’s Prince (Anselm Fautanu). This tale has a second royal, Rapunzel’s (Jade Escalante) Prince (Prince Adena).
The Witch (Cristal Ponce) threatens just about everybody and the Wolf (Brandon Lukas) stalks the little girl with the red cape, so life is a struggle.
And the Narrator (Randyl Degal) is the tour guide as the characters mix, mingle, and connect. He’s very much a part of the wants and needs of all.
With its once-upon-a-time framework, Sondheim’s score and Lapine’s libretto reflect dark and light, sadness and happiness, and acceptance and resistance plus other dualities of life.
So the Baker and his Wife are instructed by the Witch to secure “a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold,” giving them beans from her garden to barter with, and a key thread in the unfolding of the storyline.
The goal for the haggard one really wants these things to reverse a curse on her, to return to her earlier beauty.
The repeating themes: nothing is impossible, so live your dreams. The powerful message: Choices often mean consequence, so not everything comes easily. The outcome: agony can be transformed into hope and happiness.
Sondheim’s melodies are exquisite and often transformational, with cadence and complicated lyrics that define the prolific songwriter’s style, so delivery requires a complex art form of its own. One of the lingering tunes comes late in the show; “No One Is Alone” (delivered by Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, the Baker and Jack) is a signature.
And “Finale: Children Will Listen” (by the Witch and the company) is compelling and charismatic.
Director Staley, with Kirstyn Galiusas as her assistant, works well with the ensemble scenes, bringing out the richness of company voicing; her choreography, however, is serviceable but static, clearly suggesting that dance is not the pivotal trait of her cast.
Erin Kamikawa’s costumes are colorful and functional. Christopher Patrinos is set designer and technical director; his stage design features a stationary principal bridge connects two moveable staircases (think “Hamilton”), garnished by forestry-like vines. The orchestra is situated behind the bridgeway.
There was one mishap, at last Saturday’s performance; the Stepmother’s (Kamakea Wright) wig toppled in one scene, but quickly adjusted, earning slight applause and chuckles.
Advisory: though the play explores beloved fairytale faves that young children may identify with, this is not for the very young, because the show demands quiet concentration.
Yes, the young ones might find delight in Milky White, the puppet cow, who earns a moo-ving cheer at the final curtain, but parents should have discretion in bringing their kids. Despite Sondheim’s vision, all children do not always listen. …
“In the Woods”
What: A musical by Stephen Sondheim, with book by James Lapine.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (March 3 and 4) and 2 p.m. Sunday (March 5).
Where: Joseph Rider Farrington Auditorium, at Farrington High School.
Tickets: $10 for adults (18 and older), $5 for students (5 through 17), $3 for Farrington students with ID, at https://www.showtix4u.com/events/15389
And that’s Show Biz. …