MUSKEGON — As it traditionally does, Muskegon Civic Theatre is closing its season with a large musical.
Beyond its unseen Giant voiced by Joy Lamphere — please find a way to identify this black-clad actress at curtain call — it is a monster.
Clocking out at almost three hours, MCT is taking the downtown Frauenthal Theater “Into the Woods.”
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, “Into the Woods” stirs together several fairytales, and sprinkles the resulting stew with winks to a few more.
Taken from plot point to plot point by a contemporarily suited Narrator (Dakotah Salazar), the principal stories are of the spunky glutton Little Red Ridinghood (Laurel Burgam), her predatory Wolf (Kristopher Arnold) and Granny (Gina Faino) whom the Wolf makes the fatal error of treating as a hors d’ oeuvre; Jack (Heath Carpenter), his wooden-on-wheels cow, and that freaking beanstalk which is only glimpsed in passing; Cinderella (Sabrina Hochhuth) who majors in pratfalls; and Rapunzel (Abigail Clark), her flowing hair hitting more than a few snags.
Linking them is the plight of a barren Baker (C.R. Mohrhardt) and his Wife (Monica Brothers) who pine for a child; and a gnarled Witch (Regina Schlaff) whose curses beget transformation while stirring the plot pot.
The result is both comedic and thought provoking, and the piece’s signature lament of loss and hope, “No One is Alone,” might bring a tear.
Or reduce an accountant to despair. According to a budget published in the playbill, this mammoth undertaking, which will run for a total of only four performances, cost more than $40,000 to mount. Applause, applause for underwriters Camcar Plastics Inc., and the Robert D. & C. Corcoran Tuttle Fund of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. Theatre ain’t cheap.
Having opened Thursday, May 5 at the historic, 1,748-seat Frauenthal, MCT’s “Into the Woods” features, to my recollection, one of the finest singing ensembles ever assembled for a community theatre musical around here.
Top to bottom blithely handling banter master Sondheim’s characteristic wordplay, the show’s vocalists soar, most notably Hochhuth, Carpenter, Sheila Kulp Wahamaki as Jack’s Mother, Mohrhardt, Brothers, Burgam and — wow — Schlaff.
Jaime McCool as Cinderella’s Stepmother, attended by Chelsea Zobl and Amanda Williams as the poor girl’s conniving stepsisters, provide the most comic relief. Laughter attends each entrance after the younger tormenters are blinded and thereafter stumble about wearing steampunk sunglasses like two of those famous Blind Mice.
And let’s not sell short Kevin Foley and Alex Barringer as love-and-lust-lorn princes whose “Agony” marks them as practitioners of situational ethics; After they’ve won Miss Right, they’re on the prowl for Miss Right Now.
So as not to belabor the point, there does not seem to be a weak link in director Kirk Wahamaki’s 24-member cast, hence a nod to vocal director Heather McCallum. Choreographed by Jana Warren, the characters caper about Brian Goodman’s serviceable set, accompanied by music director Philip David DeYoung’s sound, 14-piece pit orchestra.
It works, at length. “Into the Woods” doesn’t break for intermission until 1 1/2 hours have passed, but hang in there: Act II is shorter.
You are, however, running out of time. Just three more chances remain to see MCT’s Into the Woods”: 7:30 p.m. today (Friday) and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday.
In the fashion of Cinderella’s stepsisters after mommy dearest whittles their feet in an attempt to make that elusive slipper fit, hop to it.