Front Row Reviewers

It’s Not Out of Your Way to See the SCERA Center for the Arts’ Into the Woods

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

By Angela Eckhard

Into the Woods at the SCERA Center for the Arts  gives us “Once upon a time there was a baker and his wife…”  Into the Woods starts out as a simple fairytale, but we quickly learn it is so much more. Director Chase Ramsey set the stage for a  familiar and beloved tale or two, and Into the Woods did not disappoint. In addition to being the director, Ramsey is the scenic designer. With the help of Zippy Hellewell, Scenic Shop Manager and Christy Norton, prop designer, his vision for the show  comes to life and intrigued and fascinated me.  

The first thing that struck me as we waited for the production to start was the bookshelf sitting almost center stage. I checked out the rest of the set and noticed more book shelves, and lots of single books tucked into every nook and cranny on the stage. I tried to remember if books played a part in this show, but other than the “Once upon a time” angle, I drew a blank. The show started, and as we wound through the fairytales I was delighted to see that the books had been carefully but quietly woven into each part of the show, from the birds that help Cinderella to the flowers that the wolf entices Little Red with, and even on some giant boots. This show is about many stories and the books are a constant reminder of the importance of each one.

The chaos in the show all starts with the story of the Baker and his wife. Marshall Lamm brings a genuinen authenticity to the baker that the audience loved, and that kept us attached to him and his story through to the end. As he learns and grows from struggle and heartache, we learned with him. When he sings “No More” with such heartfelt sincerity we wanted to jump on the stage and help him with his journey. His wife  Rian Gordon offers the same sincere emotion to her role, and our hearts went with her as she works to figure out what is best for her and for her family. We could almost see the learning happening as she beautifully sings about “Moments in the Woods” and adds to the feeling that no one is alone. Marc Haddock brings just the right amount of mystery and wisdom to the role of the Baker’s mysterious father.

The tale of Cinderella and her “family” is one of the most well-known stories, and one of my favorite twists of this play. We have all found ourselves on the steps of the palace wondering what we should do next, and trying to make a decision in what seems to be an impossible situation. Lauren Pope plays Cinderella with the grace and a heart fitting of a princess, and was my favorite character of this show. Her powerful, yet somehow soft demeanor is just what Cinderella should be. Her stepmother (Charisse Finch) and stepsisters (McKenna Thomas and Shannon Follette) are both perfectly evil and perfectly funny in all the right places. 

I love Little Red Riding Hood in this show, and Eliza Johnson embraces the role perfectly. With wit and sass, she learns more about the world than perhaps she wants to, and Johnson shows us the way that the character grows through her story.  Little Red’s sass definitely comes from her granny, and Shannon Follette’s plucky grandma was so much fun to watch. I found myself feeling just a little bit sorry for the wolf (expertly played by Daniel Cespedes) because he has no idea what he had gotten himself into when he entered this granny’s cottage. 

The story of the magic beans is important, and Jack (Cole Hixson), his mother, and their cow do a wonderful job sharing their story. Hixson exhibits innocence and energy to the role of Jack, another character whoso story teaches him a lot. His love for his cow and for his mother was apparent and endearing. Milky White, the cow, is traditionally played as a puppet, but the facial expressions and quiet gestures that Follette (one of the stepsisters as well brings to the part makes Jack’s story even more fun. Jack’s mother, Alyssa Rick (who also played Cinderella’s mother) is exasperated and tired, but ready to take a stand for her son when needed. Rick gives the part life in a way that all mothers can identify with-loving, worn out, but stronger than we realize.  The giant and his wife also play an important part of Jack’s story, and I loved the giant’s wife’s boots, covered with the pages of books as they stomp across the stage.

The charming prince brothers and their trusty steeds bring laughter in all the right places. As they sing about their agony and commiserate over the problems in their stories, it made us laugh and shake our heads. Rapunzel’s prince, played by Isaac Moss, seems to be genuinely concerned about his princess right up until the time he starts singing about a princess in a glass box. And despite his faults, Cameron Ward as Cinderella’s prince br produces a very human and loving touch to their last goodbye.

Samantha Frisby cackles and teases her way through the witch’s story, bringing power and grace to the lessons learned. The second act of this show tears all of the happily ever afters apart, but leaves us wiser and smarter than we had been before, which is somewhat nice. And  a little bit not. 

I love the music from Into the Woods. I was especially taken in by Hixson fabulously belting “Giants in the Sky” and I had forgotten that this show makes me cry until Pope’s powerful rendition of “No One is Alone”. Honestly, I was still singing “Agony” and “I sorta hate to ask it, but do you have a basket?” as we left the theater, and for many hours after. The soundtrack (Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) is my favorite part of this show, and each member of this cast meets each note with talent and power.

The ending of this show isn’t your typical “Happy ever after” but, whether you have seen this story before or if you are new to the woods, you don’t want to miss this amazing production of Into the Woods at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem.

SCERA Center for the Arts presents Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim.
SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S State St, Orem, UT 84058
September 18-October 7, 2023  Mon, Tues, Thursday-Saturday 7:30 PM
Tickets: Child (3-11)/Senior (65+) $12, Adult $4 
Contact: 801-225-2787
SCERA Facebook Page

Photos by Rachael Gibson

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers


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