Houston’s Theater Under the Stars has unveiled another wonderful production, this time with the classic fairy tales we all grew up with re-imagined. Stephen Sondheim’s musical has been around for nearly 30 years, but it is just as witty and fun today as it was when it first opened on Broadway.
“Even as the show heads towards its 30th year, I find it as fresh, funny, and insightful as I did when I saw the original Broadway production three times in its initial run,” said Dave Clemmons, Dean of Humphreys School of Musical Theatre.
Robert Longbottom, a Broadway veteran who has earned multiple TONY nominations for his work, is the Director and Choreographer for Into the Woods. He reimagined the production and gave it a fresh look for Theater Under the Stars. “We were blessed to have this TUTS production helmed by the gifted man of the theater Robert Longbottom. When (passion) is true and sincere as it is in this case, it inspires the entire creative team, the acting company and indeed everyone who works on the production,” said Sheldon Epps, Artistic Advisor to Theater Under the Stars.
Everything from the simple, but elegant set design to the costumes is a visual treat. The stage is set with four trees that had a role all their own as they moved throughout the production to set the mood and the tone. The costumes were straight out of a book of fairy tales – exactly what you would imagine Little Red Riding Hood, a baker, a witch and a princess to be wearing.
The cast shines with Emily Skinner as the witch, Britney Coleman as Cinderella, Kally Duling as Little Red Riding Hood and Stephanie Gibson as The Baker’s Wife. The first act is a fun and entertaining whirlwind with great musical numbers like Hello Little Girl and It Takes Two. The audience is led through the production by narrator Paul Slade Smith and as Act I closes all the characters have had their wishes granted. As with every fairy tale, there are a few trials and tribulations on the horizon or as the clever t-shirt sold during intermissions says, “It’s all Fun & Games Until Act II.”
Act II reminds the audience to be careful what you wish for. The characters all deal with what happens after their wishes were granted; was Cinderella’s prince really a great guy, did locking up Rapunzel really help to keep her safe or did it harm her, did Jack really need to steal from the giant at the top of the beanstalk? Calamity ensues in Act II, but everyone survives after working together and ultimately choosing a different path for their story.