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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Fairy tales meet realities as Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre continues its 2016 season with Into the Woods – a musical featuring the intricate song and lyric patterns of Stephen Sondheim and a multi-faceted book by James Lapine. Based on stories by the Brothers Grimm and by Charles Perrault, the show takes some of the most familiar children’s fables from the 17th and 18th centuries and after showing entertaining accounts of them in the first act – goes on to reveal the more consequential results of all those “happily-ever-afters”.

Director Jeff Stockberger and choreographer Ron Morgan skillfully keep the action flowing using an all-star cast. Sarah Hund returns to B&B to portray the Witch. Ms. Hund’s impressive endowment of talents is on full display as she nails her character’s ambivalences and power in both her actions and her songs. Don Farrell, whom we most often see at ATI, plays the Baker with an energetic panache. His performance is full of hopefulness and despair as his character tries to balance his needs with his truths. Meaghan Sands is perfect as the Baker’s Wife. She provides the right blend of anxiety with and trust in her husband. Gifted as she is with superior vocal talents, we hope to see Ms. Sands on the B&B stage again very soon.

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L-R: e Baker’s Wife (Meaghan Sands) and the Baker (Don Farrell) are confronted by the Witch (Sarah Hund) in B&B’s “Into the Woods”

Jaddy Ciucci is a joy to watch as the sassy Little Red Ridinghood. Ms. Ciucci nearly steals the show in her early scenes as her bouncy, physical portrayal and sharp delivery add a  comic aspect to the familiar miss. Danny Kingston animates a cheerful, clueless Jack, and paired with his mother, boisterously played here by Suzanne Stark, we are provided with yet another side of yet another familiar tale.

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Little Red Ridinghood (Jaddy Ciucci) meets up with the Wolf (Timothy Ford) in B&Bs “Into the Woods”

Amanda Downey brings us a lovely and gentle Cinderella, Gabrielle Harker is a Rapunzel in crisis, Timothy Ford and Mickey Rafalski blend their marvelous voices as the grandiloquent Princes – for Cinderella and Rapunzel, respectively. And Grace Sell joins Christine Zavakos and Lauren Morgan in playing Cinderella’s dysfunctional step-mother and sisters. A.J. Morrison is the unsteady Steward, while James Anthony completes the cast in the dual role of Narrator and Mysterious Man.

The entire ensemble works together to present both the recognizable and the meaningful spun-off stories. Great voices and terrific acting meld into a production that leaves you with a rather large WOW factor.

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Cinderella (Amanda Downey) is surrounded by her step-sisters Florinda (Christine Zavakos) and Lucinda (Lauren Morgan) and step-mother (Grace Sell) as they leave for the King’s festival without her in B&B’s “Into the Woods”

The simple principle setting of the woods designed by Michael Layton matched up with a complex lighting design by Ryan Koharchik, immensely aids the storytelling. Jill Kelly Howe’s colorful costume designs illuminate the stage and Daniel Klingler’s makeup work adds a solid final touch.

I particularly want to give high marks to the B&B orchestra – a band of five led by Terry Woods. Sondheim is some of the most difficult music to produce and this group of fine musicians never missed a note or beat in their complex accompaniments. The additional scoring necessary to play most of the orchestra sounds on two electric pianos was especially well done, I thought.

Bottom-line: I was wowed – and I think you will be, too. Though I was not familiar with this Sondheim piece, I would have to say that B&B’s presentation of the show makes it one of my new favorites.

Into the Woods continues through November 20th. You can find out more about the schedule and reserve your tickets by calling the Box Office at (317) 872-9664, or by going to the B&B website at http://www.beefandboards.com.

* – Photos by Julie Curry

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