Not your child’s usual fairy tale

MAPA Live! lures you ‘Into the Woods’ … Be careful what you wish for

Leighanna Locke is Cinderella (from left), Kiegan Otterson is Jack and Casey Hughes is Little Red Ridinghood. Jack Grace photos

Stage Review

MAPA Live! concludes “Into the Woods” music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine, directed by David C. Johnston, under the musical direction of Gary W. Leavitt. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului. Tickets range from $22 to $66 (plus applicable fees). Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children under 10. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.

Though delayed by weather, MAPA Live!’s “Into the Woods” opened Sunday afternoon, and it was well worth the wait.

Without giving away surprising plot twists, the Friedrich Nietzsche quote, “What does not kill me makes me stronger,” is certainly relevant to “Woods,” and the challenges (and rest) that Hurricane Lane afforded may have actually elevated the production’s quality.

Set designer Jamie Tait beautifully frames “Woods” with the suggestion of a dense forest, and his handiwork serves the production well as movable parts shift seamlessly — with the aid of the production’s ensemble members — implying multiple locations as familiar fairy tales intertwine.

Kirsten Otterson as the Witch and Sara Jelley as Rapunzel.

Providing the early exposition required to initiate the numerous conflicts are Robert E. Wills as the Narrator, and Kirsten Otterson as the Witch. Otterson’s gorgeous vocal skills ably handle the complicated tempos and cumbersome lyrics as she explains why a curse has been placed upon her neighbors, a Baker (Logan Heller) and his Wife (Lina Kruger).

Journeys are now in store for the leading character of “Woods.” Jack (Kiegan Otterson), of beanstalk fame, is sent by his Mother (Kristi Scott) to sell his beloved cow in the village. Cinderella (Leighanna Locke) wishes to attend the Royal Ball, yet is scorned by her Stepmother (Lisa Teichner), and stepsisters Lucinda (Jackie Messier) and Florinda (Monica Berney). Little Red Ridinghood (Casey Hughes) wishes for a basket full of baked goodies to bring to her Granny (Ally Shore), “And perhaps a sticky bun . . . or four.” Finally the Baker and his Wife need specific ingredients to break their family’s curse in order to conceive a child — “The cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, the slipper as pure as gold.”

One of the joys of “Woods” is to peek around the trees to observe the actions of others that are not the center of a scene’s attention. All of the focused cast members remain in character, and if you’re paying attention, provide a great deal of comical moments in the shadows of the trees.

One such moment comes as Hughes devours the baked goods that Heller and Krueger gifted her. Additional side gags are frequently offered by Ricky Jones as Rapunzel’s Prince, and by Yezzi who adorably portrays Milky White, Jack’s beloved cow.

Ripe with sardonic commentary, expertly delivered by its veteran cast, “Woods,” though an exquisite musical, is also very, very funny. Adding to the charm of “Woods” are the divine costumes by designer Jojo Siu and her assistant Laarnie Barcelon.

Casey Hughes (Little Red Ridinghood) tries to flee Francis Tau‘a as the Big Bad Wolf.

Properties director Carly Anders also brings winsomeness to the production, particularly with her pigeon puppets that flock around Cinderella.

Musically, composer Stephen Sondheim’s lush score is flawlessly performed by the orchestra (Beth Fobbe-Wills, Kim Vetterli, Dick Vetterli, JoAnna Byng, Beth Sederstrom, Lukela Mahi, Philip Proctor, Sue Nakama, Dan Reisinger, Rona Landrigan, Sue Westcott, Patricia Weed Shearer, Teresa Skinner, Silvina Samuel and Cheryl Lindley) conducted by Musical Director Gary W. Leavitt.

Though its libretto is nearly nonstop and filled with many mesmerizing moments, several solos and duets highlight the first act. They include Hughes’ “I Know Things Now,” and with Francis Tau’a as the Wolf on “Hello, Little Girl”; Kiegan Otterson as Jack on “Giants In the Sky”; “Agony” with Jones and Jerry Eiting as Cinderella’s Price (which evoked sustained fits of laughter) and Locke’s “On the Steps of the Palace.”

Kirsten Otterson shines again on “Stay With Me” paired opposite the equally ideal soprano vocals of Sara Jelley as Rapunzel. The lengthy Act 1 concludes when all temporarily achieve their “Happily ever after,” ominously punctuated as Wills proclaims: “To be continued.”

The darker Act 2 explores unfulfilled additional wants, less than blissful marriages and errors in judgment by nearly all the supposed heroes of these famous fairy tales.

Consequences loom, and a new conflict mounts as an angry Giant’s wife (the voice of Kathy Collins) returns to avenge her husband’s death. Amidst the common crisis, Otterson displays her softer side sorrowfully with “Witch’s Lament.”

Later Krueger delivers one of the biggest laughs of the entire production upon being discarded after a casual encounter with Eiting in “What the hell was that?” She follows that comical moment with the sublime and touching, “Moments In the Woods.”

Heller has two striking moments of his own as the Baker begins to evolve spiritually: “Any Moment” opposite Locke, and “No More” alongside Wills, who doubles as the Mysterious Man.

As the moral of the story begins to emerge, Sondheim’s score and James Lapine’s lyrics ascend to an inspirational level with perhaps the two finest pieces of the production — the Witch’s crescendo “Last Midnight,” and the spellbinding “No One Is Alone” performed by the entire company.

Though there are mature themes in “Into the Woods,” its finale, moral and elegant, is profoundly touching. There is good and bad in the world, and heartbreaking challenges and changes just around every corner.

“You decide what’s right, you decide what’s good . . . maybe we forgot, they are not alone. No one is alone.”

Director David C. Johnston and Assistant Director Hoku Pavao have given Maui theater lovers an impeccable musical production worthy of very early discussion as the best musical of the year, teeming with some of the best individual performances as well.

Upcoming

In celebration of the Historic Iao Theater’s 90th birthday, Maui OnStage will host a free screening of the re-mastered version of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.’s musical comedy, 1929’s “Rio Rita” at 7 p.m. Sept. 7 during Wailuku’s First Friday town party. This was Maui’s first talking and first color picture ever screened.

The following Monday, ONO! returns with a staged reading of “The Cat’s Meow” by Steve Peros. The mystery-comedy play examines the true unsolved and court dismissed possible murder of silent film producer Thomas Ince (Jason Wulf) while on board William Randolph Hearst’s (Robert E. Wills) yacht, The Oneida, over the weekend of Nov. 15, 1924.

* Performance is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10 at the Historic Iao Theater. The free ONO! performances happen every second Monday of the month. For more information, visit www.mauionstage.com.

*****

Cabaret & Cocktails and the seventh annual Hawaii Burlesque Festival and Revue present “Burly-Vision: A Late Night, Binge-Worthy Burlesque Show” at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Historic Iao Theater.

This one-night-only extravaganza stars “Hawaii’s Burlesque Sweetheart” Violetta Beretta, “The Boom of the Barbary Coast” Bunny Pistol, Margot Rita, Madame X, The Baroness, Lily O’Lei, Miss Riding Hood and her Big Bad Wulf, host Madame Munchausen and many more.

* Performance is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8. Tickets range from $25 to $45. “Burly-Vision” is an 18 and over event. For more information or to purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

*****

Join the Maui Academy of Performing Arts for its 30th annual Garden Party on the beautiful shady lawn of the Yokouchi Family Estate in Wailuku from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30.

Enjoy Broadway-caliber entertainment featuring the stars of “Into the Woods,” a chef’s festival with gourmet cuisine from Maui restaurants, fine wines, locally brewed beer, live jazz, a silent auction and fresh art — on-site created paintings to be auctioned off at the live auction not long after the paint has dried.

Proceeds benefit MAPA’s educational performing arts programs including its December production of “Nutcracker Sweets” at the MACC. All-inclusive tickets are $75. The Garden Party is a 21 and over event. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.mauiacademy.org.

COMMENTS