Review: Into the Woods (Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts)

Into the Woods brings fairy tales to life on stage at the Randolph Theatre in Toronto

The fantastic musical Into the Woods, produced by the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts at Toronto’s Randolph Theatre, is a fairy tale extravaganza that shuns happy endings and makes you careful of what you wish for. 

You’ll be recalling a few bedtime stories as you bob your head to Stephen Sondheim‘s music. Based on James Lapine’s book, Into the Woods takes Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel, and has a childless baker and his wife knead those classics into one big mega-tale.

It’s hard to pick out highlights because the play was captivating from beginning to end, and quite frankly, every single actor took on Sondheim’s score and Lapine’s story with gusto.

Each character was endearing in his or her own way: Cinderella (Kayla Coolen) for her disappointment with royal marriage, the Baker (Joel Schaefer) for his earnest quest to break the Witch’s spell, his wife (Rachelle Bradley) for her comic love scene in the woods, Jack (Luke Letourneau) for his devotion to his cow, Little Red (Emma Gibney) for her triumph over the Wolf, Rapunzel (Cassie Doane) for her lonely, operatic singing from her tower, and the Witch (Tiera Watts) for her evil, don’t-mess-with-me ways.

While every song was amazing, I was particularly impressed with “Your Fault”, a high-speed song which has Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, the Baker, the Witch and Cinderella blame each other for the giant’s destruction. “Your Fault” is performed at an electrifying pace, and our unhappy yet nimble characters don’t miss a beat.

The most entertaining lyrics for me came from “Any Moment,” performed by the Baker’s wife who becomes weak in the knees, and Cinderella’s Prince (Mathieu Aubin) who says, “There is no right or wrong in the woods…” in order to seduce her, to our great amusement.

As for my theatre companion, she really liked Little Red Riding Hood for her cute, perky youthfulness. Little Red sure did skip her way into our hearts, her coveted red cape flowing behind her.

And speaking of Little Red, the crowd-pleasing scene in which the Baker cuts her out of the Wolf’s belly had us roaring with laughter. Seeing Little Red Riding Hood brush herself off after being swallowed by the Wolf was pure delight. And then our laughter was compounded by seeing her Granny (Veronica Malfatti) climb out a moment later. What a joy.

I was also charmed by the cow Milky White (the flexible, constantly chewing Jade Percival), the handsome, hopping Princes (Aubin and Danik McAfee), Cinderella’s gaudy, and the over-the-top step-sisters and step-mother (Lauren Mayer, Justine Grimes and Jessica Kenny). I thought Into the Woods was fabulously directed and performed.

My friend and I were enchanted by this playful excursion into the woods (where anything can happen!), and you will be too. Take note that you may see a different cast, depending on the date and time of the performance you choose. Two different casts take turns performing.

Lastly, here’s one thing I personally disliked about the evening: getting out at 11 p.m. All weeknight shows start at 8 p.m. It’s a looong show that merits all of our attention, and we should be fully awake to relish it right up to the finale. Why not start an hour earlier?

Details

  • Into the Woods is playing until August 9 at the Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst St.)
  • August 2, 7-9 at 8 pm with matinees on August 2 and 9 at 2 pm.
  • Tickets are $22 and are available online at ticketmaster.ca or at the door.

Photo provided by the company.

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