Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Into the Woods at Riverside
Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods has been one of my favorite musicals ever since I saw a filmed performance of the Broadway show on public television, and I’ve listened to the Broadway soundtrack dozens of times. So I was thrilled when a friend was cast in a starring role as the witch in Riverside Dinner Theater’s production of the musical, and was excited to see the show last weekend.
The story weaves a number of traditional fairy tales together into a classic quest fable. But it’s not really a children’s story, certainly not appropriate for very young children. After the “happily ever afters” of Act I, the story explores what happens when reality intrudes on the happy endings, wishes that once seemed so simple become complicated, and decisions can have painful consequences.
I thought the Riverside troupe did an amazing job. I have to admit that when I heard the opening notes, the first “Once upon a time” spoken by the narrator, the “I wish...” of the first song, I was delighted, because it matched the soundtrack perfectly. In fact, because Riverside uses recorded music, there’s no slightly amateurish orchestra to distract from the songs. Every singer was first rate...not a weak voice in the bunch. I met up with several friends who’ve seen many Riverside performances, and learned that this isn’t always the case. They all agreed that this show is one of the finest musical productions they’d seen there. Inventive set design and lovely costuming were a bonus.
So if you’ve never been to the Riverside Dinner Theater, this show is the perfect one to try. For me, this was my first return after attending a couple of shows over 10 years ago, and it’s still true that the evening is more theater than dinner, so don’t go expecting a fine dining experience. But while the food is merely adequate, the show is a real treat, and well worth the price of admission. Into the Woods runs through Sept. 19; for ticket info, visit the theater's website.
Photo: Culpeper Star Exponent