‘Into the Woods’ opens strong

Christina Pellegrini

The Villanova Student Musical Theatre production of “Into the Woods” opened Friday evening with a cast of familiar childhood characters, upbeat musical accompaniment and a fluid ensemble performance.

The play seams together the plots of traditional fairy tales such as “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel” and “Little Red Riding Hood” into a new representation of the same messages told through modern and comedic relationships and language. The characters all meet in the woods, where their stories become intertwined in a way no one will quite remember from bedtime stories.

The thick plots are complicated further by a malicious witch with a soft spot for her vegetables, which she is prone to rapping about, and her beautiful daughter, Rapunzel.

The first act follows the baker and his wife in a desperate search for four objects which will break the Witch’s curse rendering them childless.

When the play seems to have ended, the second act follows the aftermath of the “happily ever after.” Jack’s giant returns, and dark and surprising twists on the traditional endings of well-known tales round out the musical in an unpredictable finale.

The quick-moving play was mostly underscored by a six-piece live orchestra pit which called for a conscientious cast that kept good time with the music both vocally and physically.

The entire cast cooperated well to create ensemble scenes with smooth transitions, group interaction and energy. Standouts include the lively, sweet-toothed Little Red (Emily Walsh) and the gentle-voiced Cinderella (Meghan McKeown).

Relationships in the play grew stronger and more complex between the baker and his wife (Andrew Clare, Suzy Thompson) through the progression of the play, creating genuine moments of love, frustration, and joy.

The seduction scene between the wolf (Matthew Rusk) and prospective meal Little Red shouldn’t be missed, as well as the love-tortured rendition of “Agony” by the two charmingly competitive and unappeasable princes (Chris Irving, Kyle Dean).

“The woods symbolize everyday life,” says Walsh, a junior member of VSMT.

All the characters are confronted with making choices for themselves, she says.

Walsh plays Little Red Riding Hood in “Into the Woods,” her fifth show with VSMT. This is her first encounter with the play, and she had to familiarize herself with it before auditions. Walsh’s character is comical, and she loves to try new things, she says.

Thompson, a senior member of VSMT, has already been in “Into the Woods,” as Cinderella two years ago. She says that it is interesting to approach the show with a new character’s motivation driving the play.

“She is the one you can relate to the most,” Thompson says of the baker’s wife.

She says the baker’s wife is the most realistic character, from convincing her husband to let her help on the journey to getting things she needs from other characters.

In the woods, “things can change at any second,” Thompson says.

“Into the Woods” is directed by Justin Damm, who has a degree in Villanova’s Master of Arts in Theatre. Walsh says Damm’s primary goal is to have fun and be professional at the same time.

Through the success of the cast and a well-balanced dedication to humor, it seems like Damm has found a directing method that has worked quite well with VSMT.