Front Row Reviewers

Feb 19, 2024 | Reviews

Find a New Twist on Classic Fairytales at University of Utah’s Into the Woods

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

Review by Avery Dall-Hilton, Front Row Reviewers

Our journey begins in University of Utah’s intimate Babcock Theater where the live instrumentalists tune up before the show. The seemingly simple Blackbox set is magically brought to life the second the words “Once upon a time” are spoken by Narrator Natalie Ruthven and the audience is swept into the fantasy world.

Into the Woods is a beloved and well-known Stephen Sondheim musical of mixed-up fairytales brought to the wider public by the 2014 Disney film of the same name. While you might have seen the movie or play, the University of Utah’s production is a surprising a unique take on the classic you’ve never seen before. Employing a modern grunge edge to the design, director David Eggers and the cast create a world and characters that make us examine the stories in a different light.  With so many different stories happening at once, it’s amazing to see how each actor brings their character to life and maintain their motivation as the story progresses.

With a cast of 23 actors and 12 live musicians, any moment that all are present on stage is truly breathtaking. The audience is treated to strong performers, masterful compositions, and poetic moments of transformation throughout Into the Woods. One particularly impressive moment happens at the first sight of the Wolf (Tate Foshay). Foshay performs an impressive and unsettling rendition of “Hello Little Girl” alongside the bright and cheerful Little Red (Paris Howard). He goes on to play the equally creepy but hilarious Prince, masterfully portraying the differences and similarities between the two characters.

One of my favorite songs in the show is “Last Midnight” and Helena Goei is impressive with her powerful delivery. Her portrayal of the Witch is particularly poignant as we see the complexity and development of the character throughout the performance. Playing her neighbors and subjects of her curse are the Baker (James Wong) and his Wife (Lila Prince). The two create a believable tension as they bicker and disagree until they finally see eye to eye in a charming performance of “It Takes Two”. I was enthralled by Wong’s raw and real emotion as he brings so much vulnerability and richness to the character. Prince is also a delight as she navigates the confusion of the Baker’s Wife’s conflicting wants and pursuits. Both sing the roles beautifully as well.

There are many wonderful “moments in the woods” that are delightful, clever, devastating, and truly moving. From “the steps of the palace” to the “giants in the sky”, each and every performer brings something unique and wonderful to the production. I loved to see how ever actor interacts with the set to help bring it to life. The base of the set is a network of vines and branches, giving the appearances that the stage, the characters, and even the audience are being swallowed in the woods. The actors then bring other props and set dressings to change locations. Scenic designer Kaitlyn Crosby and prop designer Arika Schockmel are to be commended for their creativity and clever execution.

Every production relies on the unseen talents and skills of the stage managers, lighting and sound board operators, intimacy coordinators, and many, many others. It is so special to bring music director Alex Marshall and full orchestra on the stage with the performers. The musicians are incredibly talented and at times vanish into the background while at other times are the center of our attention.

Into the Woods follows the original Grimm Brothers’ version of fairytales and as such is darker than their Disney counterparts. Instead of entertaining “happily ever afters”, we’re left wondering about the consequences of wishes. The result is powerful storytelling that doesn’t leave everyone with the ending they wanted. If you’ve never experienced Into the Woods live on stage, and even if you have, you’ll be delighted by this imaginative new production at the Babcock Theater from the University of Utah’s Department of Theatre.

A review by Front Row Reviewers. The University of Utah’s Department of Theatre Presents Into the Woods by James Lapine (book) and Stephen Sondheim(music and lyrics).
Babcock Theater, Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 E. Salt Lake City, UT84112
February16-25, 2024 7:30, 2:00 Saturdays and Sundays
Tickets: $7.50-17.50
University of Utah Department of Theatre Facebook

Content Advisory: This production is intended for children 12 and up (4 and under are not allowed). Some stage violence (blood is portrayed with fabric), discussions and ambiguous portrayals of death, moment of marital infidelity, predatory behavior toward a child (by a wolf).

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers


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