By: Iris Wiener
Broadway stars headed Into the Woods in Patchogue on March 8th and 9th as a part of the Patchogue Theatre’s ongoing Broadway Series, a popular concert program that was created by Gary Hygom and John McDaniel. The Stephen Sondheim musical fantasy was at its finest, backed by a phenomenal 15-piece orchestra with sixteen diverse, extraordinarily talented performers bringing new life to a timeless classic. The production featured McDaniel’s direction and conduction, with Stephen DeAngelis’ casting.
With only a few days to rehearse, the ease with which the cast slipped into the distorted, overlapping fairy tales was especially remarkable. Tony Award-winner Alice Ripley, best known for her role as Diana in Next to Normal, was astounding as the titular witch, especially in her powerful delivery of the haunting “Last Midnight.” As the Witch (and Rapunzel’s mother) she managed to evoke feelings of compassion, even in her selfish (and sometimes evil) ways. Jim Stanek (Fun Home)was superb as the Baker, exhibiting enthusiasm and enormous heart in “No More,” alongside Alan Muraoka’s (Aladdin)humorous and sensitive Mysterious Man. Stanek demonstrated why he is long overdue leading man status on Broadway.
Constantine Maroulis (Rock of Ages) stole the show at every turn, bringing creepiness and charisma to both the Big Bad Wolf and Prince Charming; along with Darren Ritchie (Les Miserables), who embodied the role of Rapunzel’s Prince,Maroulis’ rendition of “Agony” was a comical and joyous treat. Ali Ewoldt’s Cinderella (The Phantom of the Opera)gave a master class in musical theater with the 11 o’clock number “No One is Alone,” and brought down the house when Stanek, Ayla Schwartz’s (Frozen)Little Red Ridinghood, and Tyler Jones’ (The Book of Mormon) Jack joined her.
McDaniel’s direction most definitively set this concert apart from others. While the actors wore minimal, yet creatively thoughtful costumes, they made grand use of a gorgeously lit stage. Audiences were instantly transported into the woods, with makeshift trees bathed in pinks and greens interspersed among the band. Though the choreography was by no means complex, the extensive stage directions and the ease with which the actors maneuvered them instantly made the woods feel alive, a character in and of itself. In a beautiful number in Act II, the Baker’s Wife (the delightful Melissa Errico) sings “that’s what woods are for, for those moments in the woods.” The sentiment touches in a visceral sense, as the entire evening was transformative- in essence just a few “moments,” but overall an unforgettable evening.
Find out more about the Patchogue Theatre Broadway Series and upcoming events at PatchogueTheatre.org.