Given the spaciousness of the Argyros rather than the limited dimensions of the Nicholas Stage, where most youth shows are performed, SCR's "Into the Woods" does full justice to Sondheim's score and the equally intricate book by James Lapine.
Lines like, "It's your father's fault the curse got placed and the place got cursed in the first place" and, from the prince, "I was raised to be charming, not sincere," never fail to amuse.
The ensemble is uniformly impressive, but a few individual performance stand out — Brianna Beach's vindictive witch (though her transition to glamour gal isn't that contrasting since she's not really uglified to begin with), Rachel Teague's baker's wife who gleefully discovers her sensual side, Akshay Sharma's befuddled baker and Julia Ostmann as the screeching harridan that is Jack's mother.
Also quite satisfying in their interpretations are Kailyn Dunkleman as the delicately lovely Cinderella, Catherine Hass as the bratty Little Red Riding Hood, Jordan Bellow as Cinderella's philandering prince and Luke Tagle as the "mysterious man" who insinuates himself into the proceedings.
Others filling the bill quite nicely are Connor Dugard as the wolf, Lindsey Wiercioch as Rapunzel, Claire Dwyer as Cinderella's ethereal mother and Nick Slimmer as Rapunzel's prince, who doubles as the second wolf. Tying the package together is Valentina Gehley as the narrator.
The efforts of Sara Ryung Clement, who designed both the magical setting and the imaginative costumes (the cow, Milky White, is a particular hoot, employing crutches to enhance character) are highly effective, and Erin McNally's music direction is first rate. The singers might be more effective if, in the first act especially, they resisted playing every lyric out front when not engaged in a solo.
"Into the Woods" — which winds up its brief engagement this weekend — ranks near the top of Stephen Sondheim's world-class litany of musical theater triumphs. South Coast Repertory's talented teens do particular justice to this tricky and demanding exercise.
TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.
If You Go
What: "Into the Woods"
Who: SCR Summer Players
Where: South Coast Repertory Julianne Argyros Stage, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Closing performances at 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Call: (714) 708-5555