CommentaryFTC Record

Once Upon a Time in New York – Into the Woods Reimagined

Fairy tales meet the Big Apple in this modern musical rendition of Into the Woods.

Into the Woods (Photo: Five Towns College)


Review by Stephen Cooney and Daniel Garcia

Fairy tales.

We all know them, and how they end, but what happens after the “happy ever after?”

Into the Woods answers that question gracefully, but with a powerful twist.

Many know the hit musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, but Five Towns College’s Theatre Division, Director Mitchell Walker, and the entire creative team dared to reimagine the setting, characters, and design elements. The result was a fresh and modern take on a well-loved tale, breathing new life into a classic, making it a must-see for all.

The plot of Into the Woods consists of a complex combination of fairy tales. Each character embarks on a quest that leads them into the woods. The Baker and their wife, desperate to lift a curse, cross paths with Little Red Riding Hood, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Rapunzel. Their stories connect, and each character achieves their personal goals by the end of Act One. However, the arrival of a vengeful giant in Act Two destroys their “happily ever after.” This plot twist adds a layer of complexity and intrigue to the story, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.

This production of Into the Woods stands out for its bold reinterpretations. Set in New York City with Central Park as “the woods,” the show takes on a contemporary vibe. The princes are portrayed as wealthy frat brothers, adding a touch of modern authority to their characters. Cinderella’s stepfamily displays a modern mean-girl aura, providing a fresh take on the classic villains. Little Red Riding Hood is depicted as a street-smart city girl, giving her character a gritty, urban edge. The Wolf, donning red-rimmed glasses and a mafia-type hat, takes on a unique persona, adding a layer of complexity to his character. In a significant departure from the original, the Baker and their wife are portrayed as a lesbian couple.

Picking cast favorites is a daunting task, because nearly every number had the audience erupting into applause. Justin Morris’ Wolf, who’s now dressed as a pimp, stands out. While his time on the stage is limited, he makes the most of his moments in the spotlight and leaves a mark on the audience.

Sierra Nycole as the narrator was a refreshing retreat from this standard stage role. During the first act, she embodies a traditional narrator. Throughout the second act, however, she breaks the fourth wall, with the characters calling her out for telling the story as it happens, instead of it playing out how they want.

Two other shining stars of the production were Paul Schiller and Joseph Cicchelli III, playing the two princes. Their duet, titled “Agony” is an amazingly emotional break from their comedic antics. After they stopped singing, the audience stopped for a round of applause that lasted over an entire minute, which didn’t seem long enough.

The costumes also reflect the modernized characters. The princes display an “old money” vibe, embodying the essence of modern power. Cinderella’s stepfamily sports Juicy Couture tracksuits and glittery bodycon dresses, perfectly capturing their mean-girl personas. The Baker’s attire leans feminine, while their wife’s is more masculine. And Little Red Riding Hood swaps her traditional cape for a red puffer jacket, adding a touch of urban chic to her character.

The set design and production in the Five Towns College Performing Arts Center was phenomenal, with a projector screen in the background playing videos and different special effects that brought the production to life. The lighting was spectacular, with lights casting across the stage and changing colors, for just a split second at times, to aid the story telling. One scene that particularly stood out was when Cinderella’s stepsisters were trying to fit into her slippers. When they cut off a part of their foot to try and make the slipper fit, the lights briefly flashed red, making the performance feel even more significant than it already did.

In addition to the musical numbers and talented pit orchestra led by Professor Felipe Rondon, the overall sound was impactful. The giant, played by Theresa Tiernan, spoke into a microphone from offstage. Paired with an echo and voice modulation, it felt like there was a giant in the sky as the actors looked upwards.

The crowd’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Opening night was nearly sold out, and the audience seemed to have enjoyed every moment of the performance. The humor and unexpected plot twists kept everyone on their toes, making for an engaging and entertaining experience. Into the Woods at Five Towns College was a must-see for anyone who appreciates a fresh take on a classic tale. The modernized characters, innovative set design, and bold reinterpretations breathe new life into this beloved musical.

Into the Woods was a shining example of how a classic can be reimagined for a modern audience, making it a truly unforgettable experience, and Director Mitchell Walker and the entire Five Towns College Theatre Division should be applauded for their amazing work on the production.

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