Go "Into The Woods"

Family-friendly musical staged at the 5th avenue theatre

By Steve Dunkelberger on November 1, 2007

For a show not well seated in reality, take a trip to Seattle to see “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim. The show tells the story of a fabled baker and his wife as they journey into the woods on a quest to lift a witch’s curse so they can have a baby. On the way, they cross paths with all of the noted fairy-tale characters children have grown to love. There is a very witting and self-reliant Little Red Riding Hood, an operatic Rapunzel and a duo of princes who are more about the adventure of gaining the things that they can’t have than they are about loving the life they lead.

This family show is filled with wonder and wit as the storybooks of childhood play out in odd ways well after “happily ever after” closes the popular chapters on these characters.

The costumes and staging are amazing. And a few extra touches such as a shocking magic wand that shoots sparks into the nether regions of the baker make the show a hit.

What elevates the show from a “children’s” show to one adults will enjoy are the clever lyrics and completely believable characters — considering they come from fairy tales that is.

Sondheim, of course, is a master of the written word, and this is one of his best works because he shoots off clever lines. Audiences almost have to play the music back and forth a few times to get all of the subtle phrases Sondheim so willingly and freely tosses about.

And, of course, children will like it because the show has all of the characters they have seen only in cartoon form or shaking hands at Disneyland. This show gives them a look behind the lives of storybook characters more completely than if they were on “Entertainment Tonight.”

For this family-friendly musical, 5th Avenue is offering a special half-price child ticket for all children age 4 to 15 with the purchase of an adult ticket.

[5th Avenue Theatre, through Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday, $20-$77, 1308 Fifth Ave., Seattle, 206.625.1900]

Tacoma Opera

Tacoma Opera is going to hell and is inviting South Sound theatergoers along for the ride.

Such is the setting for its show this weekend at Tacoma\'s historic Rialto Theater.

"Orpheus in the Underworld" by Jacques Offenbach is a musical comedy that will be sung in English as a way for the actors to give it their all as they improvise lines here and there to keep the show fresh and lively.

Offenbach\'s retelling of the Greek tale of Orpheus and Eurydice transforms the tragedy into a comedy not only with witty lyrics and punches of puns but with the setting of the show in the underworld.

The two-hour story tells the tale of chatting lovers and misidentification multiplied by a factor of five or six, not to mention meddling gods and goddesses. The whole affair is a bumpy ride of humor and jabs and humor again.

Orpheus is not so much trying to save his beloved wife, but is more or less trying to be rid of her as she jumps into the arms of another man.

Then Pluto and Jupiter assist in the breakup with a few twists of their own. The play jumps from Earth to Mount Olympus to a bedroom of the gods and a trip south. Then comes a party in hell.

[Rialto Theater, Friday, Nov. 2, 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 4, 2 p.m., $12.50-$60, 310 S. Ninth, Tacoma, 253.627.7789]