Play Review: Muir Musical’s “Into the Woods”


Kaley Chun, Senior Staff Writer

As Cinderella’s Prince aptly says, “Anything can happen in the woods.” What a mantra, proved by Muir Musical’s production of “Into the Woods,” directed by Molly Lasher. Originally a book by James Lapine, this show was made into a 1987 Broadway musical by the late, great Stephen Sondheim. “Into the Woods” tells the story of a baker and his wife, who search for four magical ingredients to lift a witch’s curse keeping them childless. Along the way, they meet a cast of fairytale characters including Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (of “and the beanstalk” fame), and Cinderella; however, these characters are more human than usual and question the idea of what it means to live in a “fairytale.”

This Muir Musical was a fantastical production. As the crowd died down and the show began, lights came up on three set-pieces: a house for Jack and his mother, the baker and his wife, and Cinderella and her stepmother, switching off eventually to include Little Red Riding Hood. The first song was called, surprise, “Into the Woods.” This was an ensemble song, and it showcased a medley of voices all working together in harmony, invoking the same sensation: embarking on a fantastical journey. 

For the rest of the show, there were not many sets other than a backdrop painted into woods. However, this production did not need anything else. Fog machines created an eerie tone, colored lights mimicked a forest, and most importantly, actors were capable of filling the entire stage with their presence and their voice. During “Maybe They’re Magic,” a song about the morality of getting the naive Jack to trade his cow for worthless beans, the performance by Nikki Yar as the baker’s wife was incredible. She was one of the highlights of the show with her expressive voice, powerful singing, and acting ability that played off of other great performances like Geneva Barker’s Cinderella and Adam Oberman’s Jack.

As the musical progressed and the baker and his wife collected the items they needed, the tone of the musical shifted. At the end of the first half, the lights formed the shape of beanstalks, and the stage shook in a dramatic change of tone. Afterward, the show became less of a light, comedy ensemble piece and took on weightier implications as the land is threatened by a giant. It is in this second half that Arianna Vila shines, playing the witch. 

At this point, the witch’s curse had been lifted, and she got an outfit change into a gorgeous, dark-blue, iridescent dress as she took on a more villainous role. Then came the best performance, song, staging — it all happened during the witch’s performance of “Last Midnight.” This song was the climax of the show because most of the characters moved and danced around her as she belted out “it’s the last midnight.” Dancers matched her energy in unsettling but beautifully choreographed movements as fog filled the stage. Vibrant, purple lighting flashed to blue with a final beat, highlighting a great performance within a talent-filled show.

“Into the Woods” is a self-aware and intricate fantasy musical I was excited to see live. There were a lot of moving parts to watch and follow, but each of those pieces — musicians, dancers, actors, and everyone behind the scenes — formed an inspiring and unforgettable production, like a fairytale living on through time.


Image courtesy of Helix Creative Solutions