Knox College may have a great theater program, but it does not do musicals.
It’s no surprise, then, that its students showed up at the Orpheum Theatre to watch the Orpheum and Carl Sandburg College’s joint production of Steven Sondheim and James Lapine’s play “Into the Woods” directed by James Hutchings.
The show also boasted a few Knox students in the cast. Senior John Budding played the role of Jack while his fellow senior, Stephanie Campbell, played his mother.
The show itself was worth the trip. Although the show did not have all the production values of a mainstage production, it more than made up for any disparity.
The show itself is a pleasure to watch. The play, for those who do not know, is a take on multiple fairy tales, including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel. In the first act, the play follows each story’s protagonist as they try to complete their story.
If an audience member left at the end of the first act, they would think they saw a pretty standard fairy tale comedy where everything turns out all right. Oddly enough, though, a play with music by Sweeney Todd’s Steven Sondheim does not stay all happily ever after.
During the intermission, I saw a mother with a five year old daughter. Since the ending of the first act could theoretically work as an ending, she was trying to decide whether or not she should take her child home. She finally decided not to, but I am not sure if she did not regret that decision by the time the act was over.
In the second act, the previous act’s fairy tale endings are all upset when a giant attacks and everything takes a turn for the worse. For those over the age of five, this second act is a fascinating deconstruction of what happens after a fairy tale’s happily ever after ends and the fallout takes its toll.
The show itself was worth the trip to the Orpheum. A musical was a nice change from Knox’s plays that have — at most — a song or two. The orchestra and cast were a joy to listen to. When it came to acting, the entire cast did a good job, but the stand out was Erin Darling. Although she did not try to show up the rest of the class, her smart snarky take on the baker’s wife stole every scene she was in.
The real weakness of the show was its sound quality. Although it might have sounded better farther back, in the front of the theater, occasionally the sound was muddled, quiet and sometimes unintelligible. In some scenes this was annoying, but ignorable. Once, though, a crucial scene was rendered confusing by poor sound quality.
Although the play came just as Knox students started to realize that finals were coming up, anyone who had a few hours free (or wanted to pretend they did, so they didn’t have to think about their huge econ paper) could spend a pleasant evening in the woods.