"Once upon a time . . . " You won't be surprised by the way "Into the Woods, Jr." - a play based on Grimm's Fairy Tales - begins. But you may be surprised by how enjoyable and entertaining this children's show is.
In this junior version of the Broadway play by James Lapine, Little Red Riding Hood still gets eaten by the Big Bad Wolf. But with the whole cast singing and dancing, it's much more fun. And with Stephen Sondheim's music and cheeky lyrics ("For all I know, she's already dead," Little Red Riding Hood [Jena Miller] sings merrily as she goes to visit her grandmother), it's even more fun.
Each character in the play has his or her own "wishes" to fulfill, but the main quest is that of the likable Baker (Trevor Komatsu) and his anxious Wife (Kendra Carter), who have been cursed by the Witch (Kamalei Lono). Hunched in a ragged cloak with warty chin and long, pointed fingers, the Witch dooms them to a life without children unless they can go into the woods and bring her four particular items.
Baldwin High School’s “Into the Woods, Jr.” cast features Kalee Peterson (from left), Jena Miller, Kendra Carter, Trevor Komatsu, Troy Meader and Cayla Sigrah. It will be showing Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
CHRIS MULLEN photo
One of those items is a white cow. Fortunately, just such a cow is owned by Jack (Troy Meader), who is heartbroken at having to sell his beloved Milky White. While the Broadway production used a prop, the Baldwin production adds to the humor by using a live "cow" - played by Janolan Endrina. Endrina endows the cow with placid personality, thoughtfully sampling the foliage while the Baker and his Wife sing "It Takes Two."
The Baldwin production also adds some Magic Spell Throwers and a host of Scary Creepy Trees. The Tree costumes, designed by Edmund Pfleegor, are fantastic autumn-colored creations compiled of burlap, twigs, leaves and moss, with tube socks for arms. When the Trees strike a still pose (and they stay impressively still), they could be mistaken for modern art sculptures.
A big cast of 40 students put on "Into the Woods," plus a dozen more working backstage. Director Linda Carnevale (assisted by Alia Dela Cruz) says she's thrilled about all the freshmen taking part, with more than half the cast being new to Baldwin theater.
* "Into the Woods" runs at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Baldwin High School Auditorium. Tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for senior citizens, $6 for students 17 and younger; available at the door and through cast members. For more information, call 984-5656, ext. 315.
Essentially 18 lead parts give everyone plenty of opportunity to get involved. And some of the smaller characters are the most creative: Pfleegor does a great job as the Wolf in knickers and a furry mask, singing "Hello, Little Girl." Chris Komatsu is an energetic Prince, leaping around the stage in his pursuit of Cinderella (Kalee Peterson in a gorgeous ice-blue satin gown). Kenny Komatsu, with a heavy beard and walking stick, bursts out of the woods to chortle as the Mysterious Man.
The sets by Jim and Susan Hernandez create a magical feel: tall, black trees; oversized houses that spin around to do double duty for other scenes; a tower from which Rapunzel (Nicole Joslin/Lauren Olsen) can let down her long hair.
With so much going on, the production crew - led by production coordinator Peterson (who's also costume manager) and stage managers Pfleegor and Sydney Laughlin - have their hands full. There were a few minor snafus on opening night with lighting and sets flying in and out, but they were easily amendable.
Most of the play is sung, a challenge for the softer voices. Musical director Joni Ishikawa leads the performers through numbers like "Maybe They're Magic," about Jack's infamous beans; "I Know Things Now" by the angel-voiced Miller, after her run-in with the wolf; and the funny "A Very Nice Prince," by Cinderella and the Baker's Wife.
It's a wonderful mishmash of storybook characters that children will enjoy. However, be warned that these are still Grimm's Fairy Tales, complete with Cinderella's Stepmother (Laughlin) cutting off the heels of her daughters (Celine Hoppe and Terah Sommers, in towering pink wigs) to fit the glass slipper - a plot twist that was nixed from the Disney version!
The 90-minute play (including intermission) goes by quickly, and before you know it, it's time for the fairy tale ending. You guessed it . . . "happily ever after."
* Maui Scene columnist and freelance writer Sky Barnhart can be reached at email@example.com