Southern Musicals

Atlanta’s regional Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre is in its final week performing Into the Woods, a magical hodgepodge of your favorite childhood fairy tales … with a twist.  Situated next to the gleaming white study of geometry which is the High Museum sits the Alliance Theatre. Unlike the historical and famous Fox Theatre with its bright lights and glowing neon signs, the Alliance Theatre is quiet and regal.

Into the Woods photo
Fairy tale characters reflect on the wishes. Photo by Greg Mooney.

At a friend’s suggestion, we went to see Into the Woods, a Tony Award-winning musical that began in San Diego, California in 1986. The play combines Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and many more fairy tales into one story.  I was initially skeptical about how cohesive a storyline it would be with so many fairy tales going on simultaneously. However, Director Susan V. Booth managed to entwine all the stories by giving the characters a shared backdrop in the woods.

Booth cleverly divides the play into part one that ends happily ever after for the younger audience. The short intermission is perfect timing for a bathroom break and tucking the children into their beds. The second half tears down the fantastical world of fairy tales for the falsehoods they sell to our imaginations, mixing lust, sex and betrayal into the witch’s brew.

The extravagance of the stage design enhances the enchanting nature of Into the Woods, with trap doors, multilevel stages and a castle far, far away. The musical, pulled from James Lapine’s book, is no small feat in transformation from pages to stages. Costumes and a partitioned stage help to bring depth and diversity to the performance.

Told as a framed story, a narrator begins the tale and helps to bridge gaps between characters from different fairy tales. The Alliance Theatre is not too small or too big, it allows just enough seating that every seat in the house has a good view. The acoustic system is phenomenal, with surround sound.

Into the Woods photo
Rapunzel (Jamie Wood Katz) embraces the Witch (Angela Robinson) who acts as Rapunzel. Photo by Greg Mooney.

The performers were all musically gifted, but as all stage performers know, some stars shine brighter than others. The talented Angela Robinson performing as the Witch was able to display her wide rang of skills from rapping to a high soprano. Her quick transformation on stage from ugly witch to beautiful maiden was rapid and … dare I say magical?  Smoke enveloped her body and after a few minutes dissipated revealing an entirely different character.

While there were plenty of duets, my favorite was between Corey James Wright, Rapunzel’s Prince, and Hayden Tee, Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf.  The chemistry between the two men as they sang the woes of unrequited love and, later, the lust of wanting another woman, was palpable. They fed off of each other’s energy and their character’s natural charisma to win laughs and smiles from the enthralled audience.

Overall, I’d rate the play five stars for entertaining a wide range of ages and high-quality of musical talent.  I give a special round of applause to the high school band that provided live music for the performance.

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