Tyler Tate in Into The Woods. Photo: RPA

Into the Woods

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Directed by Alonzo Ramont

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © by 2023 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

Growth, change of heart or even coming of age, in some cases, can happen in the woods. A journey of finding one’s way, lost and alone marks transformation after again finding familiar territory; the journey, after all, is the story. It is no secret that Stephen Sondheim’s beloved Into the Woods tackles themes of the journey. And Redline Performing Arts production has “put a little sprinkle” into their version of the show. The musical which reframes happy endings and fairy tales takes shape in director Alonzo Ramont’s hands with relatable ease and a stellar cast.

The woods are constant in this play. Birds fly about, trees are moved to and fro, symbolizing the deep trek. Clearings and meadows are represented by a beautifully decorated platform covered in vines, flora, and fauna. While the woods are ever present, embracing, if not capturing each character, the staging, and choreography is simple and quick. The score does not call for big, flashy dance numbers and that’s just fine. What matters is this show focuses on all those not-so-happy feelings we all feel from time to time. And these emotions show through nicely in the ensemble of familiar Grimm’s Fairy Tale characters.

As the Baker and the Baker’s wife, Derrick Palmer, and Erica Yoleeta Goodman present believability and relatable humor as they question their choice to be parents. With struggles of pending parenthood and their constant escape from a Witch, the warm vocals of each accentuate feelings of intimacy and vulnerability that any young married couple is likely to face. Their chemistry is strong throughout the show yet “You’ve Changed” is a highlight, tinged with just the right amount of sass. As the Baker, Palmer shines with a soft naivete while Goodman’s Baker’s Wife brings a modern sensibility with her crystal clear vocals, especially in “Moments in the Wood.”

Peighton Radlein is sharp yet deadpan in her delivery as Red Riding Hood.  Her “I Know Things Now” is laced with cheekiness as Red recovers from the Wolf’s temptation (Adam Byrd certainly does not shy away from the playful mischief as the Wolf, either). Radlein’s Red overcomes the Wolf with tenacity as she trades the baked goods for knives as well as her signature red hood for the coat of the wolf.

Every fairy tale character you can think of appears in this musical and the cast brings their best performances despite suffering through some faulty technical cues on Friday night. Elijah Pahl as Jack has big dreams and his “Giants in the Sky” was lovely despite the mic hiccups. Charlie Raymer’s Rapunzel is a clear, tuneful soprano while giving Tangled vibes from start to finish. Tasha Wilson Hatchett has sweet, lovely vocals for “No One is Alone;” she also has just the right amount of optimistic oomph for the quick “I wish” quips. TJ Poliskie and Philip Clemons are spot on as Cinderella and Rapunzel princes. Their performances of “Agony” and its reprise serve up delicious comedic moments. While the song originates as a whiney lament of love, the reprisal delivers complaints of boredom as these fellows realize they have settled.

While these fairy tale characters race and stumble through the woods, a mysterious Witch hobbles at a steadfast pace. With a cape on the head, crooked cane in hand, and face covered, Tyler Tate nails the characterization with an overall physical transformation from a haunting figure to a sparkling beauty. He delivers the “Witch’s Rap” with focus and precision while “Last Midnight” saunters with mystery despite a few sound glitches.

By design, Into the Woods is a quick-tempo score with melodies that are exhaustingly layered. The ensemble gives it everything that it has, and then some, to keep up with Sondheim. The lessons are taught with heart and the cast is full of genuine talent. While this show does not win me over as a Sondheim fan, Into the Woods reminds me that Redline Performing Arts is a solid theater troupe that deserves every bit of applause.

Featuring Josh Baldauff, Troy Bell, Adam Byrd, Kristy Calman, Philip Clemons, Alex Dawkins, Dani Delvescovo, Erica Yoleeta Goodman, Tasha Wilson-Hatchett, Amber Hurst, Evan Kerr, KJ Kerr, Michelle Lori, Elijah Pahls, Derrick Palmer, TJ Poliskie, Leighton Radlein, Charlie Raymer, Tyler Tate, Josh Tierney, Javon Manlier, Kym Vaughn, Shauntrice Wilson, & Rebecca Worthington   

Into the Woods

September 29 – October 7

Redline Performing Arts
Henry Clay Theatre
640 S. 3rd Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrites Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!