In a poignant story about childhood, Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts makes a familiar story feel brand new with its spring musical, “Into the Woods.”
More recently adapted with the 2014 Disney movie, “Into the Woods” was originally a critically acclaimed 1982 production by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. An amalgamation of fairy tales, the story brings beloved characters together into one coherent story.
Loyola’s take on the classic, directed by Dr. Mark E. Lococo with musical direction by Dr. Michael McBride, allows every actor to shine in moments of comedic relief and gripping desperation.
The simple set consists of two platforms and wooden trees strewn around Newhart Family Theatre. In the opening ensemble number, the cast utilizes the entire space in traditional DFPA fashion with each actor emerging from different directions.
The plot of “Into the Woods” is spurred along by the Baker and his wife, portrayed by Grey Smith and Emma Boles, who have been cursed by the Witch to never have children. Smith and Boles’ affable chemistry helps the audience root for the couple as they venture into the woods in an attempt to reverse the curse.
As the Witch, Olivia Ash enters to a chilling set of notes by Loyola’s first all-student pit orchestra. With her emerald hood and glimmering fingernails, Ash could intimidate someone sitting in the back row.
Meanwhile, the story is being told by overall-clad Lily Cate Gunther-Canada as the Narrator. Instead of being a disembodied voice, she is an active participant in the story. Aside from creating meta moments and a twist ending, Gunther-Canada’s performance is a show in itself as she skillfully reacts to every syllable.
With a childlike wonder in his performance and a genuine love for his cow, Brody Melia as Jack is one of the most exciting parts of the show.
Aside from her impressive — yet excruciating — shriek, Ella Graham’s Little Red Riding Hood next to Will Cheeseman’s work as the Wolf is something to behold. His animal mannerisms paired with the comedic timing in his howls and growls leave the audience members cackling behind their masks.
Doubling down on his animal duties, Cheeseman somehow produces the most heart-wrenching scenes in the show, letting out devastating moos as Jack’s cow, Milky White. To make the tragedy humorous, he’s still in full lupine garb as he pushes around a bicycle with a constructed cow head.
In a feat of set design, a tree opens to reveal Rapunzel’s tower as Clare McCabe’s blonde locks drape to the ground. Before her hair is ripped down by the Baker’s wife, McCabe and Ash shine as they momentously sing “Our Little World.”
Still, the musical highlight of the first act is when the two princes pine after Rapunzel and Cinderella in “Agony.” Jake Trygstad and Brayden Turner show off their pompous, power-house voices after their ballet-inspired leaps into the scene.
Often accompanying Turner on stage, Alexander Rubin delivers a sparse, stellar performance as the prince’s Steward, with a bit as an anthropomorphic door that is the funniest moment in the whole show.
Flipping on to the stage, Carmella Whipple plays a confident Cinderella that the audience can sympathize with.
After the happily ever after of the first act, there is still more story to be told. The second act deals heavily with morality as many of the main characters face death, à la Loyola’s last production “Everybody.”
A tryst between the Baker’s wife and Cinderella’s prince shows Boles’ talent in creating chemistry with whoever’s on stage.
Without a doubt, the best song and vocal performance of the entire show is performed by Smith’s Baker and Nate Keough’s Mysterious Man. As they sing “No More,” Keough’s voice echoes throughout the auditorium in a jaw-dropping fashion.
The second act is all about growth. As this standout song is the turning point for the Baker, so many of the characters take an emotional journey that lets the audience members ponder their own circumstances.
The script succeeds in building a story that intertwines stories, but the production imbues tiny details to set it apart.
The Baker’s wife wears Rapunzel’s hair as a scarf and the Narrator takes out a raggedy ann doll in a scarlet hoodie as Little Red Riding Hood bursts into the scene.
The students and faculty involved in producing this play do a wonderful job of adapting a well-known musical, while adding enough twists to make it fresh for avid fans of the production.
“Into the Woods” will continue to run from April 7 to 10, showing at 7:30 p.m Thursday to Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.