Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Into the Woods
Ford's Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of JQA


Jade Jones and Christopher Mueller
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Director Peter Flynn has brought together a large, diverse, and talented cast for his sparkling production of Into the Woods at Ford's Theatre in Washington. From Milagros Ponce de León's scenic design, which suggests both folk art and the illustrations in children's books, to Michael Bobbitt's imaginative choreography, it's beautiful.

Composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim and bookwriter James Lapine created a mashup of fairy tales that, after the idealized happy ending of act one, follows the main characters as they have to face the dilemmas and dangers they never expected. As it incorporates several plots, it's the rare musical with an abundance of lead roles: the Baker (Evan Casey), the Baker's Wife (Awa Sal Secka), the Witch (Rachel Zampelli), Cinderella (Erin Driscoll), Little Red Ridinghood (Jade Jones), Jack of beanstalk fame (Samy Nour Younes), Rapunzel (Quynh-My Luu), and the Narrator/Mysterious Man (Scott Sedar). The numerous strong supporting characters include Cinderella's Prince (Christopher Mueller) and Rapunzel's Prince (Hasani Allen), who both double as wolves; Jack's mother (Rayanne Gonzales); and even Jack's cow Milky White (Tiziano D'Affuso in a wire mask and what looks like surgical gauze).

The central plot involves the Baker and his Wife, who discover that their inability to have a child comes from the Witch's curse on the Baker's family. She offers them the chance to break the curse, which requires bringing her Red Ridinghood's cape, a hank of Rapunzel's hair, Cinderella's slipper (gold rather than glass, for reasons that become apparent), and poor Milky White. As everyone learns, any action may have unexpected consequences.

With so many major roles, Into the Woods changes its focus from one production to another: sometimes the Baker and Wife stay in the forefront, other times it's Cinderella's story arc or the difficult mother-daughter bond between the Witch and Rapunzel. In this production, Jones dominates as a Little Red Ridinghood with smarts and attitude; whenever she's on stage, the other performers step back and give her room.

Secka is funny and moving as a woman discovering parts of herself she never knew about, well matched by Casey's gawky determination, and Zampelli convinces as a seedy crone who undergoes her own transformation. Driscoll is lovely, Younes achingly sweet-natured, Gonzales a riot as she has to clean up after Jack's adventures, and on and on. However, Mueller and Allen take awhile to get into the groove; they're too broad early on instead of saving that for the second act.

Complementing the scenic design are Wade Laboissonniere's richly detailed costumes (for example, the wolves' feet on stilts), Rui Rita's intense and spooky lighting design, and Clint Allen's projections.

William Yanesh conducts seven musicians from the keyboard, providing solid work with Kim Scharnberg's revision of Jonathan Tunick's lavish orchestrations.

Ford's Theatre
Into the Woods
March 8 - May 22, 2019
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Narrator: Scott Sedar
Cinderella: Erin Driscoll
Jack: Samy Nour Younes
Milky White: Tiziano D'Affuso
Baker: Evan Casey
Baker's Wife: Awa Sal Secka
Cinderella's Stepmother: Maria Egler
Florinda: Justine “Icy” Moral
Lucinda: Ashleigh King
Jack's Mother: Rayanne Gonzales
Little Red Ridinghood: Jade Jones
Witch: Rachel Zampelli
Cinderella's Father: Christopher Michael Richardson
Cinderella's Mother: Karen Vincent
Mysterious Man: Scott Sedar
First Wolf: Christopher Mueller
Second Wolf: Hasani Allen
Rapunzel: Quynh-My Luu
Rapunzel's Prince: Hasani Allen
Granny: Karen Vincent
Cinderella's Prince: Christopher Mueller
Steward: Wyn Delano
Giant: Karen Vincent
Directed by Peter Flynn
Choreographed by Michael Bobbitt
Music director: William Yanesh
511 Tenth St., NW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-347-4833 or fords.org


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