San Francisco Theater Preview: INTO THE WOODS (San Francisco Playhouse)

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by Tony Frankel on June 24, 2014

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


The Wolves (Ryan McCrary and Jeffrey Brian Adams) meet Little Red Ridinghood (Corinne Proctor) in SF Playhouse's INTO THE WOODS.Somewhere between “Once Upon a Time” and “Happily Ever After” there is a very adult world of tests, losses, disappointments, and grief. Despite this, we assert our agency; or as a baker’s wife sings in Into the Woods, “If you know what you want, then you go and you find it, and you get it.” The challenges and complications of getting what you want, or what you thought you wanted, are at the heart of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s rightfully popular musical, which begins tonight (officially opening on Saturday, June 28) at San Francisco Playhouse, helmed by co-founder and Producing Director Susi Damilano.

The Baker (Keith Pinto) and his wife (El Beh) renew their love in SF Playhouse's INTO THE WOODS.In Act I, a Baker and his Wife search for four objects necessary to break a witch’s curse, but Sondheim (music and lyrics) and Lapine (book) mash up a slew of well-known fairy tales to tell a delightful, brand-new story, utilizing over 25 intertwining characters—including Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Jack (of Beanstalk fame), and Rapunzel—as they search for their desires among the darkness of gnarled trees. In the second act, wishes are fulfilled, but happiness remains elusive, and the diminishing number of characters increasingly realizes that actions have consequences, even—or particularly—when the action is getting what you want. The creators caution us to beware of what we wish for—once happy endings arrive, there will be consequences for what we had to do to get there.

Jack’s mother (Maureen McVeery) disciplines Jack (Tim Homsley) to sell his old cow in SF Playhouse's INTO THE WOODS.Not normally associated with standards, Sondheim wrote some of his best standalone songs, including “No One is Alone” and “Children Will Listen.” His tricky lyrics, many of them filled with significant exposition, fly by with the speed of a witch’s broom. Fortunately, Dave Dobrusky returns for his fifth production as Musical Director at SF Playhouse, where his scaled-down orchestras in Camelot and My Fair Lady brought new life to scores we have heard dozens of times (here he uses seven pieces). Equally, he has done terrific work with vocalists both at the Playhouse and as the Resident Music Director at 42nd Street Moon Theatre where he has played, arranged, orchestrated and conducted almost 100 classic / forgotten musicals. Kimberly Richards, who won the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for her work on My Fair Lady, will choreograph.

Baker’s Wife (El Beh) tries to take Cinderella’s (Monique Hafen) golden slipper in SF Playhouse's INTO THE WOODS.SF Playhouse—which concludes its eleventh season with Into the Woods—provides intimate theater with top-notch actors and world-class design. With talented, visionary people leading this continually professional company, it has proved itself a template for any small outfit that hopes not just to thrive, but to grow into a regional theater enterprise that garners nationwide attention. In fact, its production of BAUER, written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Artistic Director Bill English, opens Off-Broadway this fall.

The cast of SF Playhouse's INTO THE WOODS.Damilano (who was born in Germany, home of the Grimm Brothers, who popularized many of the tales in Into the Woods) brings a fresh twist to this familiar tale by adding a time-travelling boy (Ian DeVaynes) to the Bay Area cast: Louis Parnell (Narrator), Safiya Fredericks (Witch), El Beh (Baker’s Wife), Keith Pinto (Baker), Tim Homsley (Jack), Joan Mankin (Jack’s Mom), Monique Hafen (Cinderella), Becka Fink (Cinderella’s Stepmom), identical twins Lily and Michelle Drexler (Cinderella’s Stepsisters), Noelani Neal (Rapunzel), Corinne Proctor (Red), Ryan McCrary and Jeffrey Adams (Princes/Wolves) and John Paul Gonzales (Steward).

The Princes (Ryan McCrary and Jeffrey Brian Adams) share the tortured stories of love in SF Playhouse's INTO THE WOODS.production photos by Jessica Palopoli

Into the Woods
San Francisco Playhouse
Kensington Park Hotel at 450 Post Street
previews begin June 24; official opening June 28
thereafter Tues – Thurs at 7; Fri at 8;
Sat at 3 & 8, select Sundays at 2
scheduled to end on September 6, 2014
for tickets, call (415) 677-9596
or visit
Baker (Keith Pinto) finds out his father (Louis Parnell) is still alive as boy (Ian De Vaynes) observes in SF Playhouse's INTO THE WOODS. Baker’s Wife (El Beh) meets a handsome Prince (Jeffrey Brian Adams) in SF Playhouse's INTO THE WOODS. Jack (Tim Homsley) climbs a beanstalk to the Giant’s kingdom in SF Playhouse's INTO THE WOODS. Rapunzel (Noelani Neal) is comforted by her “mother” the Witch (Safiya Fredericks) in SF Playhouse's INTO THE WOODS.


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