When taking on a Stephen Sondheim favorite, what better company than Beef & Boards to delve “Into the Woods” for an evening of chaotic fairy tale fun?
The dark side of your favorite childhood stories awaits you at the north side Indianapolis dinner theater, 9301 Michigan Road.
“Into the Woods” follows the story of a baker and his wife as they wander through the enchanted forest on a mission to appease an evil witch, encountering all number of characters along the way.
Expert set and lighting design (courtesy of Michael Layton and Ryan Koharchik, respectively) give convincing depth to the woods, making the intimate setting of the Beef & Boards stage appear much larger than it actually is. Add a rotating stage, and characters are able to “wander” through the woods for an impressive length of time without looking repetitive.
Don Farrell delights as the baker, injecting just a touch of humor when appropriate but maintaining a genuine portrayal of a man troubled by his circumstances.
The baker’s journey through the woods serves to introduce the audience to each member of the ensemble cast.
There’s Cinderella, fleeing the palace, a slightly self-absorbed Rapunzel and the wolf who is a predator after Little Red Riding Hood in more ways than one — just to name a few characters who come on the scene.
And as we go along, we learn that each of our fairy tale friends has more depth than we suspected; a witch is capable of compassion, not every prince is worth pursuing, and happily ever after is highly subjective.
The interactions between Little Red Riding Hood (Jaddy Ciuccci) and the wolf (Timothy Ford, who also doubles as Cinderella’s prince) are among the show’s best in the first act. Ciucci has some of the show’s most comedic lines and delivers them with expert timing. It would be easy to overdo it — she doesn’t.
The wolf doesn’t survive for more than a few scenes, but he owns the stage when he’s on it. Ford adds a perfect edge to his voice as the wolf, a nice juxtaposition from his pure-toned prince portrayal: Sarah Hund as the witch could benefit from the same effort; she sounds too innocent and youthful for the show’s villain, especially given the wickedly haggish makeup (hats off to makeup designer Daniel Klingler) that would suggest she is much older than she sounds.
That said, her Act II performance was perfection, with her vocal chops on display in “Last midnight” before one spectacular exit.
Danny Kingston is well-cast as the boyish and naive Jack (yes, of the beanstalk, which comes into play in the second act), with a voice that leaves the audience wishing he were featured more often. Same goes for Jack’s mother (Suzanne Stark), who might very well boast the best voice in the show.
These cast mates support one another well, with no one person in the ensemble cast overplaying or stealing more than their designated moment. Journey into the woods with them now through Nov. 20.
Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” runs now through Nov. 20 at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 Michigan Road in Indianapolis. Ticket info: www.beefandboards.com.