Mainers know all too well that “anything can happen in the woods.” The excitement and the foreboding implicit in those words, currently being sung in South Portland, are very much at the center of the Lyric Music Theater’s latest production.

“Into the Woods,” the 1987 musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, takes us deep into an enchanted forest populated by fairy tale characters who endure all kinds of challenges and revelations among the trees. This imaginative show has been called “post-Freudian” for its emphasis on the psychological complexities underlying the colorful stories by the Brothers Grimm, on which it is mostly based.

With 23 characters and 21 songs spread over two hours and 20 minutes, not including intermission, director and choreographer Raymond Marc Dumont, the cast and crew have bit off a pretty large chunk of theater here. But only a few hiccups, mostly lighting problems, were noticed at Sunday’s matinee.

All together, this is an impressive production that gives life to a classic piece of musical theater.

Tommy Waltz and Kim Drisco play a baker and his wife whose quest to have a child embroils them in fulfilling the needs of a demanding witch. Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (of beanstalk fame) and his cow and Rapunzel all are drawn into the story while relaying trials of their own. Searching questions of wish fulfillment, guilt and blame rise to the surface, particularly in the second act, as the characters come to question their own and one another’s motivations in pursuing an elusive happiness.

Both Waltz and Drisco had standout moments, the former on “No More,” the latter on the amusing “Moment in the Woods,” as well as combining to good effect on “It Takes Two.” Rebecca Rinaldi, as the witch, was strong on the poignant “Stay with Me” and the haunting “Last Midnight.”


Kelsie Camire, as Cinderella, revealed vocal talent in a number of places, dreamily soloing “On the Steps of the Palace.” Abigail Ackley as Little Red Riding Hood started to get at what the wolf was really after when she sang “I Know Things Now” amid chuckles from the audience.

An offstage sextet conducted by David Delano provided appropriate bathetic backing for the “Agony,” expressed by a pair of prancing princes played by David Aaron Van Duyne and John U. Robinson.

Mark E. Dils, as a narrator, tried to tie the story together for the crowd until he became part of the action.

The best moments of the show are the collective numbers when choral sophistication and well-executed choreography combine with fine songs. “Into the Woods,” “Ever After” and “No One is Alone” particularly dazzled in a show just right to dispel the idea that “the woods are just trees.” 

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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