Coincidences and consequences

The PCPA production of Into the Woods is a tangy mix of sweetness and woe that will satisfy both children and adults.

So . . . if you take your fairy tales with a dash of bitters, then Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine is the stage show for you. 

Be forewarned: the PCPA production of this magical musical is a tangy mix of sweetness and woe that in the end will satisfy both children and adults.

The first half twists the tales of several storybook characters familiar from childhood into simple quests for wishes granted, dreams realized, and—this being the land of giants and witches—curses lifted. The second half, detouring from the land of coincidences into one of consequences (always a grown-up favorite), explores what comes after the “happily ever after.” 

Jennie Greenberry as the Witch

Director Roger DeLaurier has assembled an Into the Woods acting ensemble that doesn’t miss a note, musically or dramatically. Each member of the cast brings an energetic commitment to his or her character, from young Jack (of Beanstalk fame, brightly played by second year acting student Rhys Avants, who really really loves his cow) to the long-suffering Baker’s Wife (guest artist Katie Bradley, an expressive and generous actor), to the Witch (resident artist Jennie Greenberry, who lays—or rather raps—“a little spell” with great vigor on the Baker and his Wife). 

Eric Stein (playing a dual role as the Narrator and the Mysterious Stranger), George Walker as the Baker, and Eduardo Enrikez and Garrett Haven as the show’s two Princes bring crowd-pleasing touches to their roles. And the audience willingly follows a strong Ekaterina Bouras as Little Red Riding Hood “into the woods,” a hauntingly beautiful place that isn’t so much dark and forbidding in this production as it is elegant and colorful.

Speaking of those woods, the scenic design and lighting, thanks to Jason Bolen and Jennifer “Z” Zornow, are first-rate, as are the whimsical costumes by Sara Curran Ice. 

The finale with all 18 members of the cast comes more than two-and-a-half hours—with a 15-minute intermission—after the Narrator opens with the predictable “Once upon a time . . .” and the main characters are introduced, including Cinderella (resident artist Christen Celaya, displaying an especially vibrant voice). Tightening up the seams—the many transitions required to weave the strands of the story together—may shave off a bit of this time, especially when the production moves to the Solvang Festival Theatre later this summer.

Into the Woods plays now through May 15 at PCPA’s Marian Theatre in Santa Maria, and August 11 to September 4 at Solvang Festival Theatre.