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Studio Tenns Into The Woods contemporary styling creates fresh take on fairy tale
 



Photo Courtesy Anthony Matula

An eerie tangle of leafless branches looming over angular facades and a pitched-forward floor set a spooky, off-kilter scene that, at first, appears more “grim” than “Grimm.” But mixing in colorful, contemporary costuming, imaginative choreography and a standout cast, Studio Tenn Theatre Company concocts a freshly styled spin on a topsy-turvy fairy tale.
 
“Into The Woods” runs through November 3 at the Franklin Theatre. For tickets, visit StudioTenn.com.
 
With book by James Lapine and music by Stephen Sondheim, “Into The Woods” chronicles well-known storybook characters navigating the aftermath of their ever-afters.
 
Artistic Director Matt Logan's wardrobe uses elements of modern everyday fashion, achieving whimsy with a candy-colored palette and inspired accessories, e.g. Little Red's Angry Birds backpack, Cinderella's hipster-chic specs, the Big Bad Wolf's mane of dreadlocks.
 
These little pops of pop culture render the fairy tale characters relatable without jeopardizing the suspension of disbelief required to indulge in fantasy (and theatre in general).
 
Comprising several local actors, Studio Tenn has assembled one of their strongest casts to date: Nan Gurley is flawless as the Witch. 
 
It's a thrill to watch this Studio Tenn veteran—who’s consistently excellent—in such a dynamic leading role.
 
Nine-year-old Gus O’Brien—an impressive singer—makes a charming Narrator. Strong performances by Brent Maddox as the Baker, Kim Bretton as the Baker’s Wife, Kayce Cummings as Cinderella and New Yorker Joey Barreiro as Jack provide the earnest that anchors and endears the story. 
 
Marissa Rosen is a bubbly 'tween-age' Little Red, garnering plenty of laughs with her spot-on comedic delivery and her own contagious giggle. Patrick Waller as Big Bad Wolf also had the audience howling, with his unexpected British-rock accent and, ahem, “predatory” antics. Waller cleans up nicely to portray Cinderella's Prince, whose brotherly banter with Ross Bridgeman (Rapunzel's Prince) and cheeky duet “Agony” is among many musical high points.
 
Rounding out the uniformly stellar cast are Emily Tello Speck as princess-turned-hot-mess Rapunzel (also the Harp); Susan Swindell as Cinderella’s snooty Stepmother, Little Red's backwoods Granny; Susannah Smith White and Laura Matula as Cinderella's cell phone-toting stepsisters; Marguerite Lowell as both Cinderella’s Mother/Giant, Matthew Carlton as Jack’s Mother/Mysterious Man, and Garris Wimmer as the royal Steward.
 
As the characters and their associated story lines intertwine, the versatile set (complemented by fantastic lighting design) allows the intricacies of the plot and the music to unfold unhampered in an exhilarating, one-two punch pace. Both story and scenery come to life through the clever, continual manipulation of vantage points. Studio Tenn proves once again that a little fresh perspective can make a big impact. 
 
 

Posted on: 10/24/2013

 
 

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