Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Into the Woods by New Voice Company

"There are giants in the sky, there are great big terrible giants in the sky..."
"Stay with me, the world is dark and wild..."
"Agony! That can cut like a knife..."

These are but some of the lyrics swirling in my head all through the weekend. Lyrics that come from the pen of Sondheim, from one of his most memorable musicals, Into the Woods. Over the weekend, the New Voice Company premiered their representation of the Sondheim/Lapine work, and here are a few highlights to look out for:

Great performances and voices:
- Menchu Lauchengco Yulo as the Baker's Wife. For a character who doesn't have her own name, she is the lynchpin in this cast. When another theater company showcased the play, Ms. Yulo portrayed the Witch, but she brings a wonderfully bright characterization to the BW. Her voice is pitch perfect, with the necessary frustration dealing with her husband, full of awe in her encounter with the Prince, and her no-nonsense approach towards getting the job done.

- Julia Abueva as Little Red Riding Hood. Blew me away from the first note. She might sound too perfect for a child, but no quibbling here. She's definitely one of the reasons to go see the show.

- Michael Williams as the Baker. I enjoyed him in this vehicle more than when I saw him in Cabaret two years ago. Maybe his role in the latter performance was too wimpy and whiny, but as the frustrated Baker, he seems exactly what was needed for the man on a quest. He sings several pieces, mainly with other cast members, but is never out of step. His voice is smooth and appealing. And when he sings with Cinderella, and the two younger cast members in perhaps my favorite of all ITW songs, "No one is alone", his longing and strength shine.

Here are my "awards" for the cast:

Hubba-hubba cast award goes to Joaquin Valdez as Jack. I see him reprising Westley in the Princess Bride; "milkboy, fetch me that pitcher!" "As you wish." (evil grin)

Best bod has to be Lynn Sherman as the renewed Witch. Ms. Sherman's got amazing arms and shoulders. And she didn't do too shabbily singing "Stay with me", although she seemed a bit breathless doing the prologue. I missed the shiver down my spine when she sings Last Midnight. Could have used more oomph given what's happening on stage.

Most in need of a lip sync is unfortunately shared by Tommy Abuel as the Mysterious Man and whoever was stuck performing Red Riding Hood's Granny. Mr. Abuel only had to sing one song with oh, 5? ok 10 lines. But he's not a singer. Or those slightly off notes were not what I remember in the score. Er... As for Granny, she's barely in the show, she gets eaten and spewed out. But something went amiss in one of her singing/speaking lines and whatever words of wisdom she meant to impart was lost; the acids in the Wolf's stomach interfering with the wires!

Benefit of the doubt awards towards the Narrator (whose braces may be causing the noticeable lisp), and the slightly unprincely demeanor of the two princes. Jamie Wilson was happily leery as the Wolf, simply oily as Cinderella's Prince; while the other Prince has a receding hairline and looks more like he'd be better cast as a librarian. Could have used more hunky princes to make us believe Cinderella and Rapunzel would swoon into their arms.

Overally, there are more reasons to enjoy the show than not. I'm looking forward at another chance to catch the show.

(addendum: I saw a review of the play in a manila daily and I don't think the writer knows bubbly musicals from adam. Did he even listen to the words? There's more angst and philosophy in this play than most overacted soaps on tv!)


christine said...

I agree with you on many points. Menchu was brilliant as always! Julie blew me away too, wow, what a voice on such a little girl, and I love her facial acting. Haha I love your 'benefit of the doubt award'. At first I thought she was forcing the lisp.

fyhmd said...

Hi Watergirl. I watched "Into the Woods" last Nov. 30 and enjoyed it immensely. Just sharing my views:

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