5 reasons to see 'Into the Woods' at Dayton Playhouse

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Jan. 19—What happened after happily ever after fuels composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and librettist James Lapine's 1987 Tony Award-winning musical "Into the Woods," continuing through Jan. 30 at the Dayton Playhouse.

In this tale, one of the most popular shows in Sondheim's enduring repertoire, an assortment of familiar fairy tale characters come together to grapple with themes of community, family, legacy, love, loss, hope and forgiveness.

The ensemble cast consists of Adee McFarland as the Witch, Kailey Yeakley as Cinderella, Dean Swann as the Baker, Laura Bay as Baker's Wife, Kevin Willardson as Jack, Cheryl Mellen as Jack's Mother, Drew Roby as Wolf/Cinderella's Prince, David Potts as Rapunzel's Prince, Elainah Skaroupka as Little Red Ridinghood, Amelia Schwartz as Rapunzel/Cinderella's Mother, Matthew Eberbach as Narrator, Ted Eltzroth as Mysterious Man, Jeannine Parson as Cinderella's Stepmother, Jamie Pavlofsky as Lucinda, Shana Fishbein as Florinda, Brent Eresman as Cinderella's Father, Dustin Schwab as Steward, Shanna Camacho as Granny/Giant, Dylan Serrano as Snow White, and Nelani Huntington as Sleeping Beauty.

Directed by Tina McPhearson with morsels of whimsicality and audience-friendly engagement, the production's artistic team features excellently atmospheric contributions from scenic designer Sean Mayo, lighting designer Richard Lee Waldeck and sound designer Bob Kovach as well as lovely storybook costumes courtesy of Theresa Kahle.

In particular, here are five reasons to see this entertaining showcase, which is dedicated to Sondheim who passed away two months ago.

THE WITCH: A DOMINEERING DIVA RELISHING HER DOMAIN

The outstanding Adee McFarland fiercely commands the stage as the domineering Witch, whose schemes, spells and relentless intimidation eventually leaves her bitter, loveless and alone. She truly captivates in her darker Act 2 numbers "Witch's Lament" (one of the best "I told you so" songs in musical theatre) and "Last Midnight" (filling the Witch's final pleas and warnings with perturbed gusto in spite of the oddly slower tempo set by musical director Sarah Plaugher). At the same rate, she delightfully conveys her character's kooky tendencies in the lighter Act 1. In one of her finest performances, McFarland is an essential component delivering the goods at every turn.

CINDERELLA: TAKING MATTERS INTO HER OWN HANDS

Kailey Yeakley's warm and winning portrayal of Cinderella, which effectively deepens into heartbreak when she becomes a princess, is perfectly captured in her wonderfully lyric-driven rendition of "On the Steps of the Palace," in which Cinderella reveals she purposefully left behind her glass slipper for the prince to retrieve. Impressively handling Sondheim's tricky wordplay with natural, conversational, direct-to-audience appeal, Yeakley inhabits Cinderella's introspective complexity with humor, grace and skill.

JACK: BEFRIENDED BY GIANTS AND FOREVER CHANGED

Kevin Willardson, an endearingly dim-witted Jack, brings wonder and vulnerability to the marvelous "Giants in the Sky," a coming-of-age song of amazement, hospitality, fear and relief. Thanks to Willardson, ably supported throughout by Cheryl Mellen as Jack's Mother, it is clear Jack's adventurous epiphany is not to be taken lightly even though he still has a lot to learn.

THE BAKER AND HIS WIFE: A STORY OF RECONNECTION

Dean Swann and Laura Bay commendably navigate domestic distress as a bickering couple who long to have a child and ultimately reconnect along the way. The joy expressed in "It Takes Two" is fittingly pleasant, and Swann's agitated delivery of the line "my wife was the only one who really helped" bolsters the heartache leading into the sorrowful "No More" late in Act 2.

TWO PRINCES: BOTH ALIKE IN DIGNITY AND SWAGGER

Drew Roby and David Potts shine in the amusing sibling rivalry duet "Agony." The tall, imposing Roby and the dashingly debonair Potts are an equally charming duo believably smitten by women who are uniquely unforgettable. In fact, Potts' lyric-savvy analysis of Rapunzel's captivity and flowing locks are interpreted with comedic finesse, resulting in the first breakthrough performance of 2022.

HOW TO GO

What: "Into the Woods"

Where: Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton

When: Through Jan. 30; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Cost: $18-$20

Tickets: 937-424-8477 or visit daytonplayhouse.com

FYI: The show includes strobe lighting and patrons must wear masks

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