by Roxy Orcutt
Into the Woods, the beloved musical from Stephen Sondheim, made its debut at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage over the weekend and I was able to catch a showing on Preview Night, the big warm-up to opening night, on Thursday.
For those unfamiliar, Into The Woods follows a group of fairytale characters that we all know and love, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Baker, his wife and Jack (as in And the Beanstalk) among others, on separate missions that bring them together in the titular woods. Lyric Arts, keeping in the spirit of their production of A Christmas Carol in 2014, takes a few of the more well-known elements of the show and turn them on their head, creating a more untraditional interpretation.
My favorite part of the show was the puppetry. The character of Milky White, a cow who only communicated in moos, was an absolute joy to watch. She became a fully formed character in the skillful hands of Gabriel Gomez. The Wolf, also operated by Gabriel Gomez and Kyler Chase, was equal parts hilarious and sinister.
Nykeigh Larson, who I adored in Young Frankenstein, was an absolute treasure as Little Red Riding Hood. She was adorable as the innocent little girl who has a not-so-innocent run in with a Big Bad Wolf, and also laugh-out-loud funny, delivering Little Red’s lines with brilliant comedic timing.
The character of the Witch, portrayed by Lara Trujillo, the connective tissue among all our characters, was outstanding. From her first appearance on the stage looking like a voodoo priestess emerging from the forest, to her transformation to a younger, more beautiful, but just as vicious version of herself, she was no less than magical.
With all of Lyric Arts musicals, the addition of live musicians only enhances the show. Even though you cannot see the collection of talented musicians, hearing them is an exhilarating experience, especially when they are accompanying such a talented group of singers that we encounter in this entire cast.
This was my first time seeing any production of Into the Woods, and I now understand why this show is so popular among audiences it warranted a big screen version. While nothing will compare to the experience of live theater, I am now eager to see the film version, if only to see if Meryl Streep compares to Lara Trujillo (I may be partial to witches).
However, since this was my first time seeing Into the Woods, I occasionally found myself in the woods when it came to certain parts of the show. I would suggest if you are also a first-timer to Into the Woods, maybe read up a bit on the plot. The show moves quickly, and you want to be sure you are keeping up.
While Into the Woods can be dark in some places, I feel this particular production is safe (and fun) for the entire family, even though you may find yourself explaining a few things to the kids after the show.
Lyric Arts continues to be one of the best, if not the best, community theater in the Twin Cities, and I am so proud to have them right here in Anoka.
Roxy Orcutt, The Halloween Honey, is a local author and theater enthusiast. Her book, “History and Hauntings of the Halloween Capital,” explores Anoka, MN, its spooky tales, colorful characters, and why it is named the “Halloween Capital of the World.” It is available for sale online at www.HalloweenHoney.com.