Classic fairy tales date back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In the late 1980s, composer Stephen Sondheim brought them all together in the Tony Award-winning musical, “Into the Woods.” Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk are all here.
This play is the first production of the year for Grossmont College’s Theatre Department. For the first production post-COVID, there were some growing pains, but the show is ultimately held up by the passion for bringing live theatre back to eager audiences.
The performance began with the actors in neutral-colored street clothes. Throughout the show, more and more theatrical costumes began to pop up, but there didn’t seem to be much cohesiveness between contemporary and period styles. It appeared the production was trying to go for a minimalist or understated look, but didn’t know when or where to use it. Actors also performed the entire show in plain black or gray masks; having them built into costumes or blended in the design might have helped with the style. It’s important to note that the actors wore microphones throughout the show, and while it sometimes did help with muffled singing due to the masks, it felt like the microphones often didn’t work or weren’t turned on.
Actors excelled at their solos and helped carry the show. Bella Brady, who plays Cinderella, sang her pieces beautifully and fully understood what the character required. Adelaida Martinez dominated the stage every time she appeared and conquered the role of the Witch. Lauren Ashley gave an energized and enthusiastic portrayal as Jack, and their performance of “Giants in the Sky” received cheers from the audience. Cole Atencio, who plays the Baker, was excellent with comedy, both physically and in delivering his lines. The entire cast seemed to be having a great time, and it showed in the performances.
The show has a lot of moving parts, and a large cast of 17 actors. The Stagehouse Theatre is a small space, and when sitting in the front row you are level with the thrust-style stage, face-to-face with the performers. This creates a very intimate setting that makes it feel like you are in the middle of the show. However, the actors’ downstage positions put them right in front of the row with their backs to us, completely obstructing the entire view of the stage. It happened several times, and it was incredibly distracting. This is a fault of the small space, but also its utilization. For a show of this size, it would have been nice to see the production in the brand-new Performing and Visual Arts Center on its much larger stage.
Despite the small setbacks that may have made the performance distracting, “Into the Woods” still made for a fun way to come back to the theater after all this time. In the program, Director Bibi Mama wrote: “We’ve had to reexamine the way we look at life, figure out new ways to relate to the people and things we love, and endure an unspeakable amount of loss. As we reenter these communal spaces and rediscover what we had to leave behind, I invite you to look a little closer, tread a little lighter and breathe a little deeper.”
Grossmont’s Stagehouse Theatre has a new season filled with a wide array of diverse and interesting shows, and audiences are eager to return to see everything the faculty and students have to offer.
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